Picasso’s work is considered crucial for 20th-century art. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Barcelona in 1895. He participated in the Catalan modernist movement. In 1904 he moved definitively to Paris. His studio on Rue Ravignan became a meeting point for the artists and intellectuals of that time. In the works of his first Parisian period, divided between the blue phase and the pink phase, the artist mainly depicted the life of poor and marginalized people with simplified shapes and spatial constructions inspired by Cézanne (1839-1906), Gauguin (1848-1903) and Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Through these examples and through reference to the culture of the peoples of Africa and Oceania, Picasso developed an original formal synthesis between the object and its surroundings, which culminated in the creation of cubism with the work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon(1907). Portrait of Suzanne Bloch(1904) belongs to his so-called blue phase, from Picasso’s first years in Paris. With a frugal color palette, he sought to fuse figure and background. This unity became one of the dominant motifs in cubism. The model was a lyrical singer born into a family of great musicians. She attended the artistic circles of Paris and Picasso’s studio. Among the last paintings of the blue phase, the portrait was preceded by a drawing made in pen and ink and gouache, conserved in the Neubury Coray Collection in Ascona, Switzerland.
The exhibition organized in 1994 at the Musée Picasso in Paris conferred a renewed distinction on the figure of Suzanne Bloch, a character who moved in the same Parisian circles as Picasso at the turn of the century. The sister of violinist Henri Bloch and important Wagnerian singer, Suzanne Bloch sat at Picasso’s workshop at 13, rue Ravignan, where she was ushered by Max Jacob, at the end of 1904. Perhaps the only fruit of these sitting sessions was the thumbnail sketch highlighted with gouache that Picasso drew in 1904 (signed and dated), presently conserved in the Neubury Coray Collection, in Ascona (Palau i Fabre, apudCamesasca 1987, p. 214). The oil portrait was painted in that same year, the last of the artist’s Blue Period, in which it fully belongs. Portrait of Suzanne Blochis characterized by the emergence of a reflection on the color-form compositional structure devised by Cézanne, in the line of a “Postimpressionism, concerned with the issues that caused art to explode” (Camesasca 1987, p. 215).