'Every time I draw a man, I find myself thinking of my father... To me, a man means 'Don José', and it will always be so, all my life... He wore a beard... All the men I draw I see more or less with his features' (Picasso, quoted in M.L. Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model', pp. 49-94, exh. cat., Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, London & Paris, 1988, p. 94n).
While Picasso's wife Jacqueline was the artist's chief model in his last years, the male figures in Picasso's late work are more difficult to identify, constructed as they are from various sources, both conscious and unconscious, literary and real. Prior to 1965, the young men and boys who feature in Picasso's paintings and drawings might easily recall faces or types that Picasso and Jacqueline encountered in day trips away from their home in Mougins. However, as Picasso grew increasingly reclusive following major surgery, he relied ever more on memory and imagination to supply the many personages who populate his pictures.
Tête d'homme belongs to a series of paintings of busts and heads executed in Mougins in late May and June 1965, many of which share the same beard and tight black curls which are often thought to resemble Picasso's chauffeur Maurice Bresnu, who joined the Picasso household with his wife in early 1965. Throughout this series Picasso sought purity and simplification, yet in this painting he constructs a complex composition, built up through colour and form. Picasso manipulates textures masterfully, in some places exploiting the ridged surface of ripolin, in others scraping the back of the brush across the paint surface to create line. Staring out at the viewer with a dark penetrating expression, Tête d'homme exemplifies Picasso's ability to portray type, as well as the individual, with a few choice brushstrokes.