Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Apart from a few occasions in his early career, Pablo Picasso, unlike Henri Matisse, did not employ professional models. A passionate emotional attachment was virtually a prerequisite for Picasso for him to paint a female model, and Picasso’s female subject is almost always the woman in his life at the time. Jacqueline Roque had filled the dual role of lover and muse since 1954, and they were married in 1961, when the artist was almost eighty years old. During this late Indian summer in Picasso’s career, all poses, costumes and accessories existed purely in the mind of the artist, and could be retrieved at will to suit whatever mood possessed him at the moment. ‘Picasso never paints from life: Jacqueline never poses for him, but she is there always, everywhere. All the women of these years are Jacqueline, and they are rarely portraits. The image of the woman he loves is model imprinted deep within him, and it emerges every time he paints a woman’ (M.-L. Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model’, in Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 78).
The painter in works such as Le peintre et son modèle, however, is very rarely Picasso himself, but rather a surrogate who, in this case, assumes a caricatured artist’s pose, with pen and sketchbook which has been squarely planted between himself and the model. Here, Picasso has created an artificial scene of whimsy via which he can explore the more existential questions of what it means to be an artist and to create: does the painter possess semi-divine powers, or is he simply a voyeur who knows only how to look? What becomes even more curious, adding another layer to such musings, is the third figure, perhaps a vision of the artist’s younger self, looking in on this scene with purposeful gaze, perhaps placed here by way of compounding the idea of the artist’s vision becoming reality as it exists on the canvas.
Executed in 1970, Le peintre et son modèle with all its graphic virtuosity poignantly characterises Picasso’s final feat as a draughtsman. Drawn entirely in crisp India ink, the sheet illustrates the prodigious versatility and playful expressivity of Picasso’s line and was fondly dedicated by the artist to the first owner of this work, Dr Jean Stéhelin, Picasso's physician for many years. Jacqueline had called Dr Stehelin when the artist was stricken by a heart attack on the 8th April 1973, but the physician himself was ill and unable to leave his home, with Dr Stehelin then passing away just a few weeks later.