In February of 1963 Picasso began to sketch numerous compositions of the painter and model in the studio, often creating four or five drawings in the same day. It was not until late April or early May of that year that he began to set the scene out-of-doors. Here is the artist shaded by a parasol and large brimmed hat (Z. XXIII 250 & 251) and the model reclining in a striped cloth folding chair (Z. XXIII 257 & 259) in the spring and early summer sunshine. Throughout the next several months of hot weather, painter and model moved back and forth with ease between the interior and exterior view.
Throughout this series of large canvases, the figure of the painter almost exclusively occupies the left-hand side of the composition, while the nude female model occupies the right half, their respective spaces clearly divided by the artist's easel. While in the later variations of this theme men and women are seen in costume, often assuming roles such as musicians or musketeers, in the 1963 series the protagonists are unmistakably the artist himself and the model he is painting. The lush outdoor setting that Picasso chose for the present painting is an echo of his series of Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, which preoccupied him several years earlier. Through the introspective theme of the painter at work, and the association with Édouard Manet's great masterpiece, Picasso was, during this mature stage of his career, consciously positioning himself within the canon of Western art.
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