In Etreinte the inclusion of the male figure – a musketeer – served another purpose. The character of the musketeer signified the golden age of painting, and allowed Picasso to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. Here was a character that embodied the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman, and Picasso's rendering of this image was also his tribute to the work of two painters he had adored throughout his life - Velázquez and Rembrandt. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his production throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, ‘when Picasso started to study Rembrandt,’ but his appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters. In choosing the iconography shared by the old masters, Picasso is, at the end of his career, consciously aligning himself with the greatest artists of the Western canon.
‘I have less and less time and I have more and more to say’, Picasso commented in his last decade (quoted in Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso Laureatus, Lausanne & Paris, 1971, p. 166). The freedom and spontaneity of his late work, together with the recourse of archetypical figures and symbols, reflect both a growing awareness of his mortality, as well as a conscious decision to allow himself total liberty with both style and subject matter. His choice of media in the present work – the white wax crayon on an unconventionally coloured support – exemplifies liberties he took with technique and representation in these bold and daring compositions. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, and depicted them with a contemporary style and a sense of wit entirely of his own.
‘Art can only be erotic,’ Picasso famously remarked, and his composition here certainly meets this expectation. Themes of sex and passion appeared in many guises throughout Picasso's final years, such as the virile musketeers and pipe-smoking brigadiers entangled in romantic encounters with women, or the image of the painter and his model depicted in the studio. The relationship and synergy between the artist and model was one of profound complexity: 'the more Picasso painted this theme, the more he pushed the artist-model relationship towards its ultimate conclusion: the artist embraces his model, cancelling out the barrier of the canvas and transforming the artist-model relationship into a man-woman relationship. Painting is an act of love, according to Gert Schiff, and John Richardson speaks of 'sex as metaphor for art, and art as a metaphor for sex' (Marie-Laure Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model', in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 77).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale