Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Nu couché
dated and numbered '20.1.64 VI' (upper left)
pencil on paper
5 3/8 x 8 ¼ in. (13.5 x 21 cm.)
Drawn on 20 January 1964
Marina Picasso, Paris (granddaughter of the artist).
Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie., Geneva (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above, March 2012); sale, Christie's, London, 5 February 2015, lot 283.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1971, vol. 24, no. 49 (illustrated, pl. 14).
G. Schiff, Picasso At Work At Home: Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection, exh. cat., Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, 1985, no. 142 (illustrated, p. 145).
A. and M. Glimcher, eds., Je suis le cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso, London, 1986, p. 346, no. 173.
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle and Frankfurt, Städt Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinst, Pablo Picasso, Eine Ausstellung zum hundertsten Geburtstag: Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, February 1981-January 1982, p. 412, no. 274 (titled Carnet 1097).
Japan, L'Association des musées d'art, Yomiuri Shimbun Sha, Pablo Picasso: Collection de Marina Picasso, November 1986-October 1987, p. 134, no. D-25 (illustrated, p. 103).
Graphikmuseum Pablo Picasso Münster, Pablo Picasso: Im Atelier des Künstlers, August-November 2010 (illustrated, p. 191).

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Lot Essay

While the reclining female nude served as a perennial theme throughout Picasso’s career, the artist returned to the subject with great verve in the final decade of his life. In the present lot, drawn on 20 January 1964, Picasso uses bold, expressive lines to depict the sensual form of the reclining figure. The broad stroke of the top leg leads the eye to the rounded arcs of the figure’s breasts and finally to the semi-circle of her right arm, which rests languidly above her head. Picasso favors abstraction and minimalism over an attempt at verisimilitude, elevating the act of creating itself. The motion of these compositional lines, heightened by the rubbing of the medium in the shaded area beneath the figure, celebrates the physicality of the female form just as Picasso’s own vitality was on the wane. The drawing is a record of the artist's own movements across the sheet as he passionately drew the nude, and reflects his ever-increasing awareness of his own mortality.
One of the most enduring subjects in the history of art, the nude was the site of some of Picasso’s most iconic and iconoclastic experimentations from the beginning of his career. From the early Nu couché of 1901 (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 106; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), to the exultant expressions of eroticism in the recumbent nudes of the artist’s lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, in the early 1930s, this motif never lost its allure for the artist. Erotic and adored, fearful or aggressive, dismembered, voluptuous or gaunt, the women Picasso depicted explored the innumerable facets of femininity. He portrayed women like no other artist, plundering the female psyche for artistic inspiration: “Picasso is the painter of woman: goddess of antiquity, mother, praying mantis, blown-up balloon, weeper, hysteric, body curled in a ball or sprawled in sleep… no painter has ever gone so far unveiling the feminine universe in all the complexity of its real and fantasy life” (M.-L. Bernadac, “Picasso, 1953-1972: Painting as Model,” Late Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Gallery London, 1988, p. 80).
With her arm raised above her head, the figure in this work immediately calls to mind the great Western tradition of reclining nudes that began with Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (circa 1510, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) and ran all the way through Titian, Francisco Goya, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Edouard Manet. In the 1960s, Picasso immersed himself in an intense dialogue, both highly competitive and poignantly fraternal, with the great masters of the past as he sought to invent on these classical subjects in his own, distinctive style. For the rest of this late stage of his career, Picasso remained keenly engaged in a dialogue with art history, seeking to affirm his own creative might in the face of these revered artists, as well as secure his place within this venerated artistic lineage. Hélène Parmelin, a friend of the artist recalled, “Picasso is often heard to say that when he paints, all the painters are with him in the studio. Or rather behind him. Watching him. Those of yesterday, and those of today…A painter in solitude is never alone” (H. Parmelin, Picasso Says…, London, 1969, p. 40).

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