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).
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