A fantastical fusion of Neo-Classical and Surrealist influences, executed on the sun-drenched Côte d’Azur in the summer of 1933, Picasso’s Composition is a fascinating image that brings together many of the different themes, styles and motifs that the artist was exploring at this time. Executed while the artist was holidaying in Cannes, Composition is one of a remarkable series of around thirty works on paper that Picasso made during this summer sojourn. In this imaginary, dream-like idyll, an arched classical façade overlooks the sparkling waters and bright blue sky of the Mediterranean.
Yet, between the arches of this terracotta-toned architecture, Picasso has allowed his imagination to take flight, filling the spaces with an array of different drawings: surreal and whimsical webs of lines form strange figures composed of architectural elements, organic forms and artistic objects. At the very centre of this scene is the simple yet unmistakable profile of Picasso’s great lover and muse of this golden period: Marie-Thérèse Walter. These simple outlines had become an artistic shorthand for her clandestine presence in Picasso’s life – her nose, full lips and almond-shaped eyes dominating both his art and his thoughts at this time.
Picasso arrived in Cannes with his wife, Olga and their son Paulo at the beginning of July; Marie-Thérèse had remained in Paris. By this time, relations between Picasso and Olga had seriously deteriorated, as Picasso was still completely captivated by Marie-Thérèse. Despite the increasing marital tensions however, Picasso immersed himself in an imaginary, surrealist realm. His summer sojourns in the south always unlocked the classical side of his personality, putting him in an exultant mood that inspired many of his most serene fantasies, as he coloured his personal mythos with the aura of antiquity.