Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (until at least 1964)
Private Collection, Italy
Collection DOBE, Zurich
Acquired from the above in 1993
Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, Cien años de pintura en Francia, de 1850 a nuestros dias, 1962
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art; Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art; Nagoya, Prefectural Museum of Art, Pablo Picasso, 1964, no. 130
Chemnitz, Kunstsammlung, Picasso et les Femmes, 2002-03
Cannes, La Malmaison, Espace Miramar, Picasso – Voyage dans l'amitié, 2003
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso: Oeuvres de 1958-1959, vol. 18, Paris, 1967, no. 73, illustrated pl. 20
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Fifties II, 1956-1959, San Francisco, 2000, no. 58-072, illustrated p. 194
Picasso painted this monumental depiction of a female nude while he was living with Jacqueline at the end of the 1950s. While her image was presumably the inspiration for this picture, the subject is yet another interpretation of a theme which had occupied the artist throughout his career. While varying in style and depicting the 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 the 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.
As Klaus Gallwitz has observed: “Many factors coincide to precipitate the painter-model theme. Similarly, the female nudes, and later the portraits of the painter, again and again received new impulse from the great erotic tension between painter and model. In the mid-1950’s everything interacted: the studio picture contributed the painter-model formulations, just as it prepared the way for the Women of Algiers series. The latter, along with the paraphrases of the Déjeuner sur l’Herbe and Rembrandt’s Bathsheba, helped the nude to establish itself as an independent theme before it was absorbed into the context of painter and model…All the pictures devoted to the nude have one thing in common: The body is usually seen directly from above and is brought as far as possible into a foreground plane... After the Demoiselles d’Avignon, the great archaic women at the well, and the surrealist monsters on the beach, Picasso called to life another race of giantesses. These Cyclopean nudes are shown lying, crouching and sitting, but never standing. Despite their tremendous bulk and the oppressively close view, their massive calm gives their bodily presence a certain unapproachability. In the 1960’s Picasso began to dissolve the solid cubism of these figures in a painterly calligraphy” (Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso The Heroic Years, New York, 1985, p. 152).
In various periods of his work, Picasso’s art was closely related to his personal life, and the women depicted in his paintings were always influenced by Picasso’s female companions at the time. In Femme assise, the female figure is inspired by Jacqueline. Although it is not a direct likeness of Jacqueline, with her large eyes and sharp profile, the seated figure bears the features with which Picasso usually portrayed his last muse. Although she never posed, the essence of Jacqueline is always present in his portraits of the period (see fig. 2). As demonstrated in the present work, Picasso often depicted Jacqueline in ‘double-profile’, a stylistic device invented in his portraits of Dora Maar, but the roots of which go back to his cubist experiments with multiple view-points. While borrowing elements from his own artistic past, Picasso here created an image with a force and freedom he only achieved in his last years.
In his discussion of Picasso’s late works, David Sylvester links them to his early masterpiece, Demoiselles d’Avignon (see fig. 3), both distinguished by the ‘raw vitality’ which they have as their central underlying theme: “The resemblance of figures in the Demoiselles and in late Picasso to masked tribal dancers is as crucial as their scale in giving them a threatening force. It is irrelevant whether or not particular faces or bodies are based on particular tribal models: what matters is the air these personages have of coming from a world more primitive, possibly more cannibalistic and certainly more elemental than ours. Despite the rich assortment of allusions to paintings in the Renaissance tradition, the treatment of space rejects that tradition in favour of an earlier one, the flat unperspectival space of, say, medieval Catalan frescoes… At twenty five, Picasso’s raw vitality was already being enriched by the beginnings of an encyclopaedic awareness of art; at ninety, his encyclopaedic awareness of art was still being enlivened by a raw vitality” (David Sylvester, Late Picasso, Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972, Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 144).
Fig. 1, Jacqueline Roque Picasso, circa 1955. Photographed by Edward Quinn
Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Nu Accroupi, 1959, oil on canvas, sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 6, 2004, lot 105
Fig. 3, Pablo Picasso, Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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