Picasso had known Cézanne’s work ever since his second trip to Paris in 1901; among a small avant-garde circle, Cézanne’s paintings and watercolors were celebrated even at this early date. It was not until his final years, however, that Cézanne began to have wider public appeal. Leo Stein recounted this transformation: “Hitherto Cézanne had been important only for the few; he was about to become important for everybody. At the Salon d’Automne of 1905 people laughed themselves into hysterics before his pictures, in 1906 they were respectful, and in 1907 they were reverent. Cézanne had become the man of the moment” (quoted in Cézanne and the Dawn of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue), Museum Folkwang, Essen, 2004-05, p. 182). Picasso would emphasize this deep admiration years later when, speaking to Brassaï he exclaimed: “[Cézanne] was my one and only master! Don’t you think I’ve looked at his paintings? I spent years studying them. Cézanne! He was like the father of us all” (reproduced in S. Roe, In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900-1910, New York, 2015, p. 206).
Picasso’s working process had significantly changed in the two years prior to the execution of Femme nue debout. From the beautifully ethereal compositions of the Rose Period, Picasso moved toward the form and tonality of Cézanne’s work while also referencing works of African and Oceanic art that filled the halls of the Musée Trocadero, and, increasingly, his studio at the Bateau Lavoir. He began to draw incessantly, laying the groundwork for what would be his most revolutionary and shocking picture to date: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Now in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Les Demoiselles is a triumphant expression of modern aesthetic values, and arguably the single most influential painting created in the twentieth century. Over the course of the next two years, the female form would continue to dominate Picasso’s paintings and sketchbooks. Large, monumental groupings of nudes would overlap each other as seen in Trois femmes, now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Throughout these works the human body is characterized by an increasingly geometricized, broken down grouping of forms which allowed the artist to explore the sitter’s figure from multiple angles and to achieve a highly volumetric, sculptural feel. As John Golding has commented: “Picasso’s paintings of 1908 had been sculptural in appearance and intent and in some of them there are already hints or implications of the multi-viewpoint perspectives of early Cubism.... Picasso had become interested in a sculptural approach to painting because of the physicality of his vision, because he wanted to touch and to mold and to handle his subjects. Now, with the abandonment of traditional single viewpoint perspective he was able to achieve his goal of taking possession of his subjects more completely and to give his canvases a dimension that in a sense already existed in free-standing sculpture: for clearly the essential property of sculpture in the round is that the sculptor impels the spectator to move around it and study it from all angles. With the adoption of multi-viewpoint perspective Picasso presented the viewer with a sculptural fullness or completeness on a two-dimensional support” (J. Golding in Picasso: Sculptor/Painter (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1994, p. 20).
1909 would prove a particularly fruitful year for Picasso. Femme nue debout most likely dates to the spring of that year when Picasso painted and drew large nudes, bathers and studies of heads, busts, and bodies (see fig. 2). In these compositions the figures read, play guitar and lounge in semi-abstracted space (see fig. 3). A few months later Picasso and Fernande Olivier would travel to Horta, a strenuous journey from Paris that involved days on a train and then a vertiginous mule ride through the mountains. It was in this remote village that Picasso would paint a series of oils of Fernande further breaking down form and creating a truly sculptural aesthetic, which in turn culminated in his bronze bust of Fernande’s head crafted in the fall on their return to Paris. In its static pose, daring application of medium and abstracted, sculptural quality, Femme nue debout is a prime example of the twentieth century’s greatest artist on the brink of the shocking and enlivening Cubist movement.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale