- Pablo Picasso
- Femme nue, assise contre une draperie
- Signed Picasso (lower right)
- Oil and gouache on panel
Dr. Peter Nathan, Zürich
Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York (acquired from the above on October 18, 1971)
Rita and Taft Schreiber, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above in 1971)
By descent to the present owner
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1920 à 1922, Paris, 1968, vol. 4, no. 395, illustrated pl. 164
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Neoclassicism II, 1922-1924, San Francisco, 1996, no. 22-139, illustrated p. 46
This full-length depiction of a nude dates from Picasso's Neo-Classical period of the early 1920s. The term 'Neo-Classical' refers to the artist's conscious affiliation with the art of the Greek and Roman period and his attempt to incorporate a similar linear precision and clear draftsmanship into his art. Picasso's focus on the classical age was a product of a larger movement, or 'call to order,' that dominated the avant-garde after World War I, but his approach to this aesthetic was influenced by more personal factors. At this point in his life Picasso was already one of the most celebrated artists of Europe, and he sought to align himself with the great artists of the past. The predecessor for whom he had profound respect was the French Neo-Classical painter Ingres, whose serene and timeless odalisques (see fig. 1) may have inspired the present work.
The physical inspiration for the figure in this picture was probably the artist's wife, Olga Kokhlova. Olga's sturdy bone structure - her long straight nose, the sweeping arch of her brow and the oval shape of her face - were perfectly suited to the type of linearity and solidity that characterized Picasso's Neo-Classical undertaking. John Richardson writes of the strong Greco-Roman character of the classical period of works, “At certain turning points in his development, Picasso has drawn sustenance from his Mediterranean heritage and the classical tradition that reflect it. The vigor of archaic sculpture, the sophistication of Roman marbles, the decorative trappings of Pompeian frescoes, the linear vitality of Greek vases and the mirror-backs and the typically Mediterranean combination of pagan gusto and formal orderliness: all this has inspired Picasso at different times” (John Richardson, Picasso, an American Tribute, New York, 1962, n.p.). Nevertheless Alfred Barr was able to distinguish between the colossal classical nudes of 1921 and the works that followed between 1922 and 1924. Barr suggested that by 1922, when the present composition was painted Picasso, “virtually abandoned his colossal nudes for a style more in keeping with the grace and elegance of traditional Neo-Classicism. Defying the chronic modern prejudice against prettiness and sentiment he made a series of sweet figures of women in classic draperies” (Alfred Barr, Picasso, Fifty Years of his Art, New York, 1966, p. 128).
Picasso attempted to create a paradigm of Apollonian beauty with his depictions of nudes from this period. This picture is one of the most serene renderings of Olga from this period, and it captures the relative peace that defined her life with the artist in the months after the birth of their son, Paulo, earlier in 1921 (see fig. 2). In the year that followed the completion of this painting, the relationship between husband and wife began to sour, and by the end of 1922 Picasso's depictions of Olga lost their tenderness and serenity. Those characteristics, however, are epitomized and preserved in this picture.
Fig. 1 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Venus of Urbino, 1822, oil on canvas, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore
Fig. 2 Olga Picasso with Paulo, circa 1922-23