The motif of a seated nude figure occurred repeatedly throughout Picasso’s career. While varying in style and depicting different women that marked each period of the artist’s life, these nudes always served as a vehicle of expressing the palpable sexual tension between the painter and his model. From the soft, voluptuous curves of Marie-Thérèse Walter, to the fragmented, near-abstract nudes of his Surrealist works, and the geometrical rendering of his later years, Picasso’s seated nudes have a monumental, sculptural presence, and 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 all of these works. Picasso’s concerns regarding the act of physical rendering and the role of the artist, explored in the series of works on the theme of artist and model, carried onto his series of seated nudes, including Nu
. The monumental nude in this composition, looming large on her throne like a pagan goddess, 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 tantalizing relationship of attraction and menace.
Picasso’s art was closely related to his personal life, and the women depicted in his paintings were always influenced by Picasso’s female companions at the time. The female Nu is inspired by Jacqueline Roque, the last love of his life, whom Picasso married in 1961, and although this figure is not a direct likeness of Jacqueline, with her large eyes and sharp profile, she bears the features with which Picasso usually portrayed his last muse. The essence of Jacqueline, who rarely posed as his model, is always present in his portraits of the period. As demonstrated in the present work, Picasso often depicted Jacqueline in an angular, fragmented manner, a stylistic device invented in his portraits of his lover Dora Maar, but the roots of which go back to his cubist experiments with multiple view-points. Borrowing elements from his own artistic past, Picasso creates an image with a force and freedom he only achieved in the last decade of his career.