In Femme et clown
Picasso demonstrates his exquisite mastery of draughtsmanship. The present work is part of the artist’s reputed series of drawings, which Picasso executed during the winter of 1953-54. At the age of 72, Picasso worked relentlessly to capture his vivid imagination and the result was a series of superb works on paper that confirm Picasso’s reputation as one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 20th century. Speaking of this period of creative abundance Marie-Laurencin Bernadac observed: 'Between 18th November 1953 and 3rd February 1954, Picasso shut himself away in a deserted villa and produced at a dizzying pace 180 drawings which have as their central theme the painter and his model. Some of them additionally summon up and incorporate themes from the past: the circus, clowns, acrobats and monkeys. Others anticipate the future: masks, old age, eroticism, jokes at the expense of the painter's trade, the comedy of the art milieu (Marie-Laurencin Bernadac, Late Picasso, Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings and Prints 1953-1972
, London, 1988, p. 51).
Femme et clown playfully exemplifies the artist’s treatment of the erotic and bizarre. In the later years of his life Picasso reintroduces the clown of his youth alongside a figure resembling, and embracing the role, of the eternal feminine. His drawings are an endless reimagining of scenarios between the painter and his model. Her expression is one of amusement for whilst she indulges the artist she cannot take him seriously.
The clown depicted in Femme et clown evokes Picasso’s early works - in particular the saltimbanques of his Rose period - which were frequented with the circus and clowns, signalling a move towards a thematically and stylistically more optimistic period and a departure from the more sombre hues of his earlier Blue Period.