This extraordinary work is a testament to Picasso’s natural flair as a draughtsman. Executed in 1972, when Picasso's own physical stamina had inevitably waned due to old age, his focus on erotic subjects in his paintings and drawings only intensified. In Diana Widmaier Picasso’s monograph on her grandfather’s art from these years, she claims that: ‘painters go about their painting to fulfill urgent needs and work off their passions’ (Diana Widmaier Picasso, Picasso
, New York, 2005, p. 10). This was undoubtedly the case for Picasso, who longed for the physical sensations that now eluded him. Rendered with a confident and free-flowing line, the image of the reclining nude in the present work is one of pure sensuality, and it takes the odalisque paintings of Ingres and Matisse as clear art historical references. The figure reclines languorously, surrounded by the serpentine lines of her oversized breasts, eyes and lips, as well as her looming left foot seemingly writhing in ecstasy. The contortions of the figure call to mind some of Picasso's most sensual depictions of the voluptuous Marie-Thérèse from the 1930s.
‘I have less and less time and I have more and more to say’, Picasso commented during his last decade (quoted in Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso Laureatus, Lausanne & Paris, 1971, p. 166). The freedom and spontaneity of his late work, together with the recourse of archetypical figures and symbols, reflect a growing awareness of his mortality, as well as a conscious decision to allow himself total liberty with both style and subject matter. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him most, and he depicted them with his signature confidence and wit.