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20th Century Art (Evening Sale)
9 November 1999
New York, Rockefeller Plaza
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Homme et femme nus
signed 'Picasso' (upper right); dated '15.4.65.' (on the reverse)
oil and enamel on canvas
44.7/8 x 76.5/8 in. (113.7 x 194.6 cm.)
Painted in Mougins, 15 April 1965
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Galerie Tamenaga, Paris.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1972, vol. 25, no. 107 (illustrated, pl. 60).
Paris, Grand Palais, Hommage Picasso, November 1966-February 1967, no. 274 (illustrated).
Dora Maar, Picasso's female companion of the late 1930's, observed to John Richardson, "at any given period of the artist's post-cubist life, there were five factors that determined his way of life and likewise his style: the woman with whom he was in love; the poet, the place where he lived; the circle of friends and the dog" (J. Richardson, "Picasso: A Retrospective View," in M. McCully, ed., A Picasso Anthology, Princeton, 1981, p. 279). In Picasso's later years, when old age and failing health led him to settle into a reclusive life with his young wife Jacqueline, the home and the woman became everything to the artist. In 1961 the couple moved to Ntre-Dame-de-Vie, a spacious villa near Mougins, and except for on rare occasions, "Picasso gave up travelling Notre-Dame-de-Vie and more especially his studios became Picasso's entire world, a microcosm of the universe: what [Gert] Schiff has called Picasso's Teatrum Mundi (J. Richardson, "L'Epoque Jacqueline," in Late Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 25).
Picasso's primary source of inspiration at this time (besides Jacqueline, whose image appears in much of the artist's late work) was his memory; of his youth in Spain, of ex-lovers, and particularly of sex (which by now in his late 80's and in ill health was no longer a possibility). This period is characterized by erotic portraits of female nudes, alone or as an artist's subject, and couples engaged in sexual activity.
Picasso's other significant subjects during this time were the paintings of his artistic predecessors, particularly those of Rembrant, Velzquez and Manet. Susan Grace Galassi explains:
For other artists, variations were usually an occasional exercise; for Picasso, notably in his later years, they were a continuous part of his creative program, and in his hands the formal operation of variation itself underwent significant
transformation. Endowed with an omnivorous visual memory and an insatiable curiosity about all forms of art, Picasso invested variation with a vitality that brought it to the center of his artistic endeavor, where the creative and the critical
overlap (S.G. Galassi, Picasso's Variations on the Masters, New York, 1996, p. 8).
Edouard Manet's seminal painting, Le djeuner sur l'herbe (fig. 1), provided Picasso with a setting and a cast of characters whom he could manipulate on his canvases. During the years of 1959 to 1962 Picasso's preoccupation with this subject resulted in "twenty-seven paintings in oil on canvas, some one hundred and fifty drawings, three linoleum cuts, eighteen cardboard maquettes for sculpture, five concrete sculptures and several ceramic plates" (ibid, p. 185). Manet's controversial painting had long since been on the artist's mind, upon seeing the work in 1929 he wrote "When I see the Djeuner sur l'herbe, I tell myself, trouble for later on" (quoted in ibid., p. 188). The series culminates in a rape scene.
Although the Djeuner series was completed by mid-1962, Picasso was never really finished with the subject and returned to it periodically. The present work, executed in 1965, is an example of one such occasion. The positioning of the two nudes find their origin in the relaxed poses of Manet's figures, and the green background serves to indicate his lush park setting.
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