In the summer of 1924 Picasso left Paris for the south coast of France, travelling with his family down through Marseilles to Juan-Les-Pins. There, rather than the smaller villa he had taken in 1920, Picasso chose one more akin to a small château, complete with Gothic windows, turrets, and crennelated outer walls. The garage across the street was turned into a studio, while the watchtower surrounded by Aleppo pines was chosen as a recurring subject of the landscapes painted there. La Vigie (the lookout house), as it was called, was to become a key site marking the gradual abandonment of Classicism for a more distorted, abstract, and indeed surreal approach in Picasso's work; 'This year, Picasso had sufficient space, privacy, and peace of mind to make a prodigious leap forward' (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, London, 2007, p. 273)
Juan-les-Pins is one of a small series of oil landscapes that show the watchtower and surrounding area by day, the whole painting pervaded by the Mediterranean sea and sun just outside the villa's doors. Rather than the illusionistic use of shading and unbroken contours found in Neo-Classical works of the preceding years, the sun and sea are denoted by suspended fields of colour, vertical smears of red over the yellow suggesting the heat and shimmering effects of the midday sun. Over these fields of colour, simple black lines and dots are added to suggest the town, while thin horizontal lines and flecks of white evoke the atmosphere of the sea.
As Josep Palau i Fabre has observed of the fields or 'stains' of colour, 'These stains are both horizontal and vertical, the latter perhaps more visible because they comprise the object and its reflection in the water, although actually there is no such object, no reflection, and no water. The brushstroke itself, by a process of elongation and with no need for description, creates the idea of reflection rather than reproducing the reflected object upside-down. This use of pictorial matter and of its expressive capacity goes beyond the object represented. The stains are an entity in their own right, a plastic value added to that of the composition as a whole' (Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama: 1917-1926, Barcelona, 1999, p. 424).