Centro d’Arte 'Il Segno', Caserta, Italy
Mario Valentino, Naples (acquired from the above in 1986)
Thence by descent to the present owner
The motif of a reclining female nude occurred repeatedly throughout Picasso’s career. He renders the nude in the present work through loosely connected patches of colour, a method of composition that clearly describes the process of painting. The nude, in other words, is intimately connected with Picasso’s physical action of painting. While varying in style and depicting different women that marked each period of the artist’s life, these figures 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 nudes are invariably depicted with a powerful sense of psychological drama stemming from the tension between the invisible artist and his sitter. Although the figure of the painter is not portrayed within the composition, his persona is very much present in this work. 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 reclining nudes, including Nu assis appuyé sur des coussins. The figure 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 tantalising relationship of attraction and power.
Marie-Laure Bernadac wrote that in 1964 ’after isolating the painter in a series of portraits, it was logical that Picasso should now paint the model alone: that is to say a nude woman lying on a divan, offered up to the painter's eyes and to the man's desire. It is characteristic of Picasso, in contrast to Matisse and many other twentieth-century painters, that he takes as his model – or as his Muse – the woman he loves and who lives with him, not a professional model. So what his paintings show is never a “model” of a woman, but woman as model. This has its consequences for his emotional as well as his artistic life: for the beloved woman stands for “painting,” and the painted woman is the beloved: detachment is an impossibility’ (M.-L. Bernadac, in ibid., p. 78).
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