Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property from a Private American Collection 
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Nu accroupi

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Nu accroupi
signed 'Picasso' (upper left); signed and dated 'Picasso 14.2.60' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
57 3/8 x 44 7/8 in. (146 x 114.1 cm.)
Painted in 1960
Samuel M. Kootz Gallery, New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Mr & Mrs Samuel Bergman, Chicago.
Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.
Acquired by the present owner in December 2000.
D. Duncan, Picasso's Picassos, London, 1961, p. 259 (illustrated). C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1959 à 1961, vol. 19, Paris, 1968, no. 172 (illustrated pl. 44).
The Picasso Project, eds., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Sixties I, 1960-1963, San Francisco, 2002, no. 60-049, p. 17 (illustrated).
New York, Kootz Gallery, Picasso, 1962.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay


'Jutting up through the treasury of portraits of Jacqueline stacked in Picasso's studio in La Californie, and others of Paloma and Claude, and still more paintings of those everyday subjects that surround him - the cavorting dogs, nesting pigeons, the view from his balcony - looming over them all is a series of gargantuan canvases painted during the last two years, in which Amazonian goddesses are depicted asleep, bathing, holding court, or just gazing out upon our twentieth century world as though it is a far stranger place than that from which they have come. In a few of these huge paintings, there are clearly recognisable features of Jacqueline, but mostly they are of those people from the universe that Picasso invented' (D. Douglas Duncan, Picasso's Picassos: The Treasures of La Californie, London, 1961, p. 195).

During the course of 1960, when Pablo Picasso was staying increasingly often in his recently-acquired Château de Vauvenargues, he painted a succession of pictures which explored the theme of the female nude. Painted on 14 February 1960 - Valentine's Day - Nu accroupi shows a woman sitting with crossed legs against a verdant backdrop; she appears to be a modernised representation of that much-loved subject, the bather. The diagram-like rendering of the profile, shown with the pared-back, Cubistic triangle of the nose and the curves of chin and lips facing the opposite direction, relates this picture to the portraits that Picasso painted of Jacqueline Roque, the woman whom he would marry the following year. In Nu accroupi, the facial features are incidental in comparison to her body, which so clearly dominates the composition. Indeed, the woman is shown filling much of the canvas, meaning that she appears life-sized or even larger: while the canvas itself is just under a metre-and-a-half tall, the fact that she fills it grants her an impressive monumentality and indeed physicality. In this way, Picasso has lent the work an engaging immediacy. The theme of the nude sitting in the clearly outdoor landscape invoked by the green of the background has a timelessness that forms a deliberate tension with the incredible planar modernity and expressive brushwork of her depiction.

The nude was a subject which occupied Picasso a great deal in works on paper and on canvas during 1960, for instance in his Femme couchée sur un divan bleu, now in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and Femme assise dans un fauteuil in the New Orleans Museum of Art. This resurgence was ascribed by Picasso's friend and biographer Pierre Daix as relating to a number of revivals in his work, not least in the theme of Bathsheba (see P. Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, trans. O. Emmet, New York, 1993, p. 344). Picasso had created a number of works based on that biblical theme, often using Lucas Cranach's picture as a springboard for erotic adventures and variations. He had also looked at Rembrandt's painting of Bathsheba, in the Louvre, and it is with that masterpiece that Nu accroupi bares a striking resemblance. In that picture, Bathsheba is shown sitting naked in an interior save for jewellery and a tiny float of gauze while her foot is being washed. In this light, it seems no coincidence that Nu accroupi relates to a number of Picasso's own images of women washing their own feet. In Nu accroupi, the head, which is turned down, appears to mimic that of Rembrandt's Bathsheba.

As well as looking back at the work of Rembrandt, an artist who had inspired and haunted Picasso for large swathes of his artistic career, traces of a number of other artists can also be seen to echo through the pose and subject matter of Nu accroupi. This picture can be seen to continue the tradition of the bather that had been explored in so many of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's works, including one that Picasso himself owned. Meanwhile, Nu accroupi also appears in part to be a melding of the two different nudes whom Picasso explored in his rich elaboration upon the subject of Edouard Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, his scandalous painting from 1862-63, a version of which is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Picasso had begun his exploration and reinvention of Manet's picture in 1959, having long been obsessed by it. In one version now in the Musée Picasso, Paris begun on 3 March 1960 - only a few weeks after Nu accroupi - and completed almost half a year later, similarities can be seen between her and the two different female figures derived from Manet. The left-hand nude is sitting on the grass in a manner that recalls Nu accroupi, while the other in the background bathing is shown leaning over, also like her. It has been speculated that the green that appeared in Picasso's pictures during this period and which is so in evidence in Nu accroupi related both to the countryside in which he was now immersed at Vauvenargues, on the slopes of the Mont Sainte-Victoire so beloved by his hero Paul Cézanne, and to the outdoor scenery of Le déjeuner sur l'herbe.

With her crossed legs, Nu accroupi can also be seen to refer to Eugène Delacroix's Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement, another picture which so obsessed Picasso and upon which he would create a number of variations. In the version of that picture in the Louvre, two women on the right are shown sitting and squatting, one with crossed legs as in Nu accroupi; indeed, that figure appears a clothed inversion of Picasso's nude. In this way, Nu accroupi can be seen as a continuation of the theme of the Odalisque that had so obsessed Picasso's friend and rival, Henri Matisse. It is no coincidence that Picasso himself would discuss to his own variations of Les femmes d'Alger by invoking his fellow artist: 'when Matisse died he left his odalisques to me as a legacy' (Picasso, quoted in R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, London, 1958, pp. 351-52). There is a resounding contrast between the languid, faux-oriental sensuality of Matisse's variations upon the theme of the Odalisque and the rawer, more looming Nu accroupi, which recalls the tale of Picasso, during his early days pioneering Cubism with Georges Braque. They strove for a new directness that would mean that a picture of a woman would pass 'the armpit test', by which their depiction would convey even a sense of smell. 'Is this woman real?' Picasso would ask. 'Could she go out in the street? Is she a woman or a picture?' (Picasso, quoted in J. Richardson, 'L'Epoque Jacqueline,' pp. 17-48, Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972,, London & Paris, 1988, p. 41). This is clearly a gauntlet that Picasso took up once more in his post-war nudes.

The squatting woman's presence in Delacroix's Les femmes d'Alger also had another importance for Picasso: he was intrigued by the striking similarity between her profile and the features of Jacqueline herself, who appeared a form of reincarnation of this character. That link to Jacqueline is far from tangential in Nu accroupi: as has already been discussed, the features in the face are clearly related to other representations of Jacqueline from the time, for instance in the picture in the New Orleans Museum of Art. Picasso often used this glyph-like rendering of Jacqueline's profile in order to show one side of the face in shadow, a darkness that hinted at her inner duality; this is shown in Nu accroupi in the Yin Yang-like contrast between the two sides of the woman's face, which each have areas that invade the other. While this rendering of the face may thus provide an insight into Jacqueline's character, the cross-legged posture of the nude recalls her habit of sitting with her feet up, often with her arms hugging her legs, as captured in some photographs from Vauvenargues and the Villa La Californie, adding another personal dimension to Nu accroupi.

The aspect of autobiography in Nu accroupi is heightened by what appear to be its references to Picasso's own universe, and indeed his older works. During the post-war period, Picasso was one of the great titans of the avant garde, still revered as the man who had changed the entire landscape of painting at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Looking at Nu accroupi, as well as similarities to the works of artistic predecessors, it appears that Picasso was casting an eye back over his own career. This figure, built in part of planes and geometrical forms, resurrects the figures that he painted around 1908 while he was on the final length of the path towards Cubism. Indeed, with its green background, Nu accroupi can be seen to echo the Dryade that he painted at that time and which relate so strongly to the strutting, angular figures of his Demoiselles d'Avignon of the previous year. During that time, Picasso was trying to convey a sense of three, or even four, dimensions through the two-dimensional medium of painting, and this was a subject that he would again tackle in his Neo-Classical figures of the 1920s such as Nu assis s'essuyant le pied, painted just under forty years earlier and now in the Museum Berggruen, Berlin. With its bold, vigorous brushwork and the earthy ochre and green, Nu accroupi takes the legacy of those important earlier works and reveals an artist not only creating a retrospective of his own oeuvre, but also attacking his own legacy as well as those of Rembrandt, Delacroix, Manet and Renoir, re-establishing his avant garde credentials against the backdrop of the post-war art world.

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