PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Nu couché

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Nu couché
signed, dated and inscribed 'Picasso Samedi 12.7.69.' (upper left)
oil stick and colored wax crayons on paper
19 3/4 x 25 7/8 in. (50.2 x 65.5 cm.)
Drawn on 12 July 1969
Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris.
Galleria Levi, Milan (by 1973).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 10 May 1995, lot 447.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 4 December 1996, lot 243.
Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.
Galerie Maurice, Inc., Boston.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 7 December 1997.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1976, vol. 31, no. 313 (illustrated, pl. 92).
Milan, Galleria Levi, Picasso: olii, gouaches, pastelli, chine, disegni, dal 1921 al 1971, March-April 1973, no. 43 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

For the last decades of his life, Pablo Picasso’s primary model was Jacqueline Roque, his wife and counterpoint, whom he had married in 1961. When the two met in 1952, Roque was working at the Madoura pottery works in Vallauris where Picasso had been making his ceramics since 1946. She captivated Picasso. Shortly thereafter his then-partner, Françoise Gilot, left him in the autumn of 1953, and the two began their relationship. These late, great years within Picasso’s oeuvre were defined by Roque’s presence and person to such an extent that his biographer, John Richardson, called them “l’epoque Jacqueline.” “It is Jacqueline's image that permeates Picasso's work from 1954 until his death, twice as long as any of her predecessors,” Richardson wrote. “It is her body that we are able to explore more exhaustively and more intimately than any other body in the history of art. It is her solicitude and patience that sustained the artist in the face of declining health and death and enabled him to be more productive than ever before and to go on working into his ninety-second year. And lastly it is her vulnerability that gives a new intensity to the combination of cruelty and tenderness that endows Picasso's paintings of women with their pathos and their strength” (“L’epoque Jacqueline,” Late Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 47).
Save for his student days, Picasso rarely used professional models, preferring instead to draw and study the women in his life. “What he painted, then,” noted Marie-Laure Bernadac, “was not a ‘model’ woman but the woman-as-model. This difference had consequences in both the emotional and pictorial realm, for the beloved woman is the painting, and the painted female is the beloved woman; thus, no distance is possible” (“The Painter and His Model,” Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 444). Indeed, Nu couchée reveals the intimacy shared between artist and subject, husband and wife. Executed on 12 July 1969, Roque has been rendered in the guise of an odalisque, the orientalist tradition of the reclining nude and a legacy Picasso claims to have inherited from his rival, Henri Matisse, upon the latter’s death in 1954. Whereas Matisse’s erotically indolent figures descended from the Romantics, Picasso’s treatment of this theme was much more sexually charged. “The admirable nudes of Matisse have no sex, just as they have no glances,” wrote Hélène Parmelin. “The nudes of Picasso have a glance and a sex. The sex of a nude is for him an essential part of the body whose reality he seeks” (Picasso: The Artist and His Model, New York, 1965, p. 158).
Beyond interrogating the idea of the odalisque itself, the nudes of Picasso’s late œuvre also continued his preoccupation with the relationship between the artist and model, first explored in 1963. During two weeks in February of that year, he filled the pages of a small notebook with more than a dozen sketches of a studio interior in which a painter is shown working at his easel while a nude model reclines nearby. Picasso thus embarked upon an extended series of related paintings, with the male subjects operating as stand-ins for the artist and the models, Roque. Though the theme of artist and model had been present throughout his career, never before had he examined it so thoroughly and with such intensity. Casting aside his alter-ego, in Nu couchée, Picasso has chosen to present solely his model and muse of the era, inviting the viewer to gaze upon her resplendent form. By allowing this theme to undergo “an erotic metamorphosis,” Picasso ushered in an extremely prolific period which marked “the rise of a new painting” and his final innovations (op. cit., 1988, p. 80).

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