Cut into black, silky ebony, Nu debout illustrates Ossip Zadkine’s faith in true carving and fascination for wood. In its style, the sculpture conveys that combination of Primitive and Cubist undertones that had characterized the artist's most original work. Intuitive and expressive, Nu debout appears as a sort of totem of Modernity, uniting the aesthetic of the automaton – expressed in the figure’s strict, almost mechanical form - with the spiritual echoes of wood, a material that had once been alive in nature. Ionel Jianou noted the mystical qualities of works such as Nu debout: ‘These eyeless statues stare at us with their whole bodies. A quiver of sensuality, desire and purity animates the slightly rounded surfaces of these young, tall, slim, lissome, highly polished and occasionally lacquered bodies, over which light fairly streams’ (I. Jianou, Zadkine, Paris, 1964, pp. 54-56). Zadkine executed Nu debout in 1936. At the time, the artist was enjoying international recognition; the following year, he would exhibit 47 works at the seminal Exposition Universelle in Paris.