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"The Picasso I saw in Spain was completely different from the Paris Picasso," recalled Fernande Olivier, his first great love and muse at the time. "He was gay, less wild, more brilliant and lively and able to interest himself in things in a calmer, more balanced fashion; at ease in fact. He radiated happiness and his normal character and attitudes were transformed" (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, p. 436). By the spring of 1906, Picasso had grown restless amid the bohemian haunts of Paris, and he sought renewal in a summer sojourn to the remote Pyrenean village of Gósol, where he and Fernande stayed for approximately three months. Picasso had been away from his native Spain since he had left for Paris in the spring of 1904, and his return "prompted many kinds of regression to ethnic and primitive roots," Robert Rosenblum has suggested, "the Spanish equivalent, we might say, of Gauguin's and Bernard's sojourns in Pont-Aven. Not only did it stir in him a fresh sense of his Spanish origins but it triggered a broader fascination with a remote world, unpolluted by modern history, that echoed back to classical antiquity" (R. Rosenblum, "Picasso in Gósol," Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 268).
During the Gósol summer, Picasso embraced a language of pagan classicism that permeates a series of watercolors, including Nu debout et faune, that he began in Spain and completed upon his return to Paris. Breaking with the vulnerability of the saltimbanques from the preceding Rose period, Picasso traced the sexual awakening and metamorphosis of a young girl in a series that began with Composition: The Peasants (Daix-Boudaille 1967, XV.62) and would culminate with the monumental Two Nudes (Zervos 1, no. 366), one of Picasso's most important paintings of that autumn. The motif of the woman with the faun is prefigured in Woman with Boy and Goat (Daix-Boudaille 1967, XV.35), executed early in the summer, and by the later Nu debout et faune the girl has been transformed into a woman of Dionysian power. Like many of the Gósol nudes, her pale, terracotta-colored body harmonizes with the red-ocher earth, and her earthy serenity and voluptuous mass suggest a coy awareness of the goat-footed faun who approaches her.
Daix and Boudaille have suggested that "this paganism, this pride in the body, this Grecian balance of nudity, all take their power and novelty from what the work of refining them reveals of their intimate source in the painter himself" (in Daix-Boudaille, Picasso: The Blue and Rose Periods, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1900-1906, New York, 1967, p. 98). The intimacy of self-knowledge is cued to sexual awareness and confrontation, Leo Steinberg has observed; and in the connection between "the gift of the satyr and the finger addressed to the mind," insinuated in Nu debout et faune, the primacy of the sexual encounter is suggestively broached (L. Steinberg, "The Philosophical Brothel, part 2," ARTnews 71, no. 6, October 1972, p. 42). The gesture of the hand raised to the hair has a classical source in the iconic Venus Anadyomene, in which an idealized nude wrings out her hair as she emerges from the water, but in the present work it is provocatively sexualized--a token of the carnal potency of the woman and her sexual maturity.
(fig. 1) Photograph of Fernande, Picasso, and Rentevós in Spain in 1906 BARCODE 25994841