Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


Pablo Picasso
1881 - 1973
signed Picasso, dated 26.11.69. and numbered IX (lower right)
pen and ink on paper
24.1 by 31.5cm., 9 1/2 by 12 3/8 in.
Executed on 26th November 1969. 
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Private Collection, Switzerland
Galerie Gmurzynska, Switzerland
Private Collection, Switzerland


Avignon, Palais des Papes, Pablo Picasso 1969-70, no. 31, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Encre)


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1969, Paris, 1973, vol. XXXI, no. 518, illustrated p. 159
Rafael Alberti, Picasso En Avignon. Commentaires à une peinture en mouvement, Paris, 1971, no. 133, illustrated n.p. (titled Encre X)

Catalogue Note

L’Etreinte is a powerful example of Pablo Picasso’s mature draughtsmanship. Imbued with a sensuality and eroticism, the present work is an exquisite line drawing that depicts the embrace of a man and woman. Executed in 1969, a few years after the artist married his second wife Jacqueline Roque, and included in the landmark exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon that year, the drawing is uninhibited, radical and expressive. Characteristic of Picasso’s art during this decade, L’Etreinte gives resonance to the words of the artist’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso: 'What underlies Picasso’s entire work – the only thing – is an erotic drive transformed into artistic desire. One is an extension of the other' (Diana Widmaier Picasso, Picasso, ‘Art Can Only Be Erotic’, Munich, 2005, p. 7).

Preoccupied with fecundity and virility, the female reclining nude is fully exposed, while the male holds her body in an engulfing embrace. The figures are rendered with dramatically simplified contour lines that emphasise their gentle curves and rendering their writhing bodies indistinguishable from one another. An image charged with energy and tension, with underlying ripples of sexual frustration and indications of the physical hardships that faced the ageing painter. As Hoffeld notes, 'contortionist sexual gymnastics, if only portrayed rather than actually lived, vicariously restore confidence, relive despair, and provide recollected moments of orgasmic oblivion' (Jeffrey Hoffeld, Picasso, The Late Drawings, New York, 1988, p. 13). The female body is intertwined with that of her male companion and her erotic pleasure is evidenced by her closed eyes and thrown back head. The man’s face has similar features to Picasso’s many male portraits during this period, most of which are bearded and crowned with flowing looped lines of hair. While this work exemplifies the quality and drama of Picasso’s draughtsmanship, the freedom and spontaneity of his line reflects both a growing awareness of his mortality and conscious decision to be totally liberated in terms of style and subject matter. Picasso said himself that 'if a given subject calls for certain means of expression, I make use of those means without hesitation. I never have experimented. Every time I have something to say, I have said it in the way which I myself have felt to be best' (quoted in R. Stanley Johnson, Pablo Picasso Works on Paper, Chicago, 2004, p. 6). 

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale