"I have less and less time and I have more and more to say" Picasso commented in his last decade (quoted in K. 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. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him most, and depicted them with his signature confidence and wit.
"Art can only be erotic," Picasso famously remarked; Nu couché certainly embodies this belief. 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'" (M.-L. Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model' in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 77).
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