"I have not painted the war because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer for something to depict. But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done. Later on perhaps the historians will find them and show that my style has changed under the war's influence. Myself, I do not know," (Picasso quoted in S.A. Nash, ed., Picasso and the War Years 1937-1945, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1998, p. 13).
Picasso only painted a handful of overt 'War' pictures. However, as he said, the war infused all his works from the period of the Spanish Civil War until the end of the occupation. The hostilities resulted in many hardships for Picasso, as it did for other Parisians. Shortages of food and coal were common and the scarcity of fuel made it impossible for Picasso to heat his studio in winter. Canvas and bronze were also in short supply. In addition, Picasso's Guernica (Zervos, vol. 16, no. 65) had made him internationally recognized for his anti-fascist views, and at the request of the Spanish ambassador Picasso was forbidden to exhibit. Despite these difficulties, the artist chose to remain in Paris, declining offers to move to the United States and Mexico.
During the German occupation of Paris, Picasso devoted himself to three great series encompassing three of the principal genres of European painting: the still-life; portraits, typically showing Dora Maar in an armchair in tight box-like spaces; and the female nude, usually represented asleep or reclining like an odalisque. His first painting in Paris after the occupation depicts a reclining female nude asleep, as do the two largest canvases he made during the occupation--at a time when canvas was expensive and difficult to buy. The largest of these accomplished works is L'aubade (Nu allongée avec musicienne (fig. 1; Zervos, vol. 12, no. 69), painted on 4 May 1942. Thematically, the present work is closely related to this important wartime painting.
Picasso was preoccupied with the female nude in 1941 and 1942. Although it resulted in only two finished canvases, the monumental size of the paintings and the hundred or so preparatory drawings dedicated to them indicate the great importance Picasso placed on the series. The initial work in the group is a small gouache on panel that Picasso executed on 25 January 1941 (Zervos, vol. 11, no. 92). He next returned to this theme in a group of twenty drawings executed in May of that year. Significantly, in this group for the first time, Picasso made a drawing that included both a second figure and a detailed interior setting. On August 18th, Picasso again picked up the theme, making thirty-three drawings and one gouache; and then at the end of September he made an additional thirty preparatory drawings of the nude. He did not execute any more studies on this subject until November, when he first made three highly worked gouaches of an interior, then the present lot which introduces two nude females set in the complex interior, followed by four further related gouaches.
Picasso then abandoned the theme, letting it lie fallow, until he suddenly took it up again and quickly conceived and executed L'Aubade. An enormous canvas, it represents a nude woman lying on a bed with a female musician seated in front of her. Picasso later said of this picture: "I painted it for myself. When you look at a nude made by someone else, he uses the traditional manner to express the form... But for me, I use a revolutionary expression... I paint this way because it's a result of my thought. I have worked for years to obtain this result" (quoted in M. McCully, ed., A Picasso Anthology, Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences, Princeton, 1997, p. 228).