Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Picasso painted the present watercolor in Cannes, where he arrived in early July 1933 with his wife Olga and son Paulo for their customary seaside summer holiday. Soon after his arrival, he began a lighthearted series of drawings devoted to a subject that he had often treated on summer vacations in previous years: bathers. However, the ominous, twisted surrealist figures of the late 1920s and early 1930s, are replaced here with fanciful creatures, drawn in a frenzied, informal manner and colored with washes. Two intertwined figures sit at seaside—a long haired blonde sits to the left, perhaps a reference to Picasso's mistress and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, with whom he had begun a passionate and clandestine affair five years earlier.
The previous year, Olga and Paulo had vacationed without Picasso at Juan-les-Pins as he remained at Boisgeloup preparing for his first major retrospective at Galerie Georges Petit in 1932. With Olga safely distant, he could freely revel in the company of Marie-Thérèse. For several summers before that, from 1928 through 1931, while he vacationed with his family, Picasso had secretly installed Marie-Thérèse in a pension de jeunes filles nearby. Now in July 1933, it was Marie-Thérèse's turn to remain behind in Paris while Picasso traveled south. No oil paintings date from that summer in Cannes; instead, Picasso executed a remarkable series of works on paper, about thirty in all, some in gouache, others in watercolor and black ink, all on sheets of paper measuring around 15 ½ x 20 in. (40 x 50 cm.). Despite her physical absence, Marie-Thérèse nonetheless made herself felt in the artist's fertile imaginings, especially considering the present work was drawn on his lover's birthday: July 13.
Picasso's depictions of Marie-Thérèse are erotically charged. She is often shown in states of sleep and abandon, or, as in the present work, playing on the beach. Les amants à la plage features two female figures, but the underlying phallic connotations throughout allude to the artist’s omnipotent lust for his muse. In the figure on the left, her anatomy is transformed into idealized, swirling forms, while her long blond hair gives her a free, youthful spirit that bears reference to the artist's iconic renderings of his lover. The englobed figure on the right, penetrates its counterpart with its protruding limbs, as the figure on the left, in turn, envelopes the biomorphic shapes of her counterpart, thought to be her cousin, Genevieve. Here, Picasso both accentuates his muse's sexuality with his twisting arabesques and intertwined forms, while the enlarged womb of the right-hand figure may allude to Picasso’s dream of conceiving a child with her—a prophecy which would be fulfilled soon after, in 1935.