Enthroned in an armchair, the woman featured in Femme dans un fauteuil
is inspired by Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s beloved second wife who remained with him until his death in 1973. Picasso’s renderings of Jacqueline constitute the largest group of images of any woman in his life. The couple met in 1952 at the pottery studio in Vallauris, while Picasso was still living with the mother of his two children, Françoise Gilot. Unlike Françoise, Jacqueline was accepting of the notoriously temperamental artist and his obsession with his art. Her unflappable support and willingness to sacrifice herself on the altar of his ego won the artist’s heart. Picasso married Jacqueline in 1961 and as William Rubin noted, “Jacqueline’s understated, gentle, and loving personality combined with her unconditional commitment to [Picasso] provided an emotionally stable life and a dependable foyer over a longer period of time than he had ever before enjoyed” (William Rubin quoted in exhibition catalogue Picasso & Jacqueline, The Evolution of Style,
New York, 2014-2015, p. 190).
The present picture, which Picasso began in November 1962 and completed in September 1963, belongs to a series of depictions of Jacqueline in an armchair. The motif of a seated woman in an armchair occurred repeatedly throughout Picasso’s oeuvre. While varying in style and depicting different women that marked each period of the artist’s life, these figures, seated and fully attentive, generally served as a vehicle for expressing the palpable sexual tension between the painter and his model. From soft, voluptuous curves of Marie-Thérèse Walter, to the fragmented, near-abstract nudes of his surrealist work, and the exaggerated rendering of his later years, Picasso’s seated nudes have a monumental, sculptural presence, and are invariably depicted with a powerful sense of psychological drama stemming from the tension between the invisible artist and his sitter.
In this picture, the profile of Picasso appears in shadow behind the figure’s head, presenting us with a dual portrait of both artist and model. Picasso’s concerns regarding the act of painting and the role of the artist, explored in the series of works on the theme of artist and model, carried onto his series of seated women, including Femme assise dans un fauteuil. The monumental figure, looming large on her throne, is not isolated in her own world. Her significance is in her relationship with her creator at the same time as with the viewer – a tantalizing relationship of attraction and power.
Picasso started painting the present work in November 1962 at the home he shared with Jacqueline in Mougins, just a few miles inland from Cannes. According to the photographer Edward Quinn, whose photographs document Picasso's studio work in the early 1960s, Jacqueline was the driving force behind Picasso's ceaseless production: "His close friends agree that Jacqueline's presence and attention were mainly responsible for Picasso's having remained so active until his death. His outlook on life and his enthusiasm for work helped him defy old age and stay young in mind, and even in body. He liked to be with younger people, and his 'eternal youth' coupled with Jacqueline's adaptability, made the great difference between their ages unimportant" (E. Quinn & P. Daix, The Private Picasso, New York, 1987, p. 291).