Femme nue au chien was executed on the reverse of a business card belonging to Picasso's friends Sebastià and Carles Junyer Vidal, who had inherited a prosperous yarn and stocking shop in Barcelona from their uncle. Sebastià, the elder of the two brothers, enjoyed some success as a painter, exhibiting a group of Mallorcan landscapes in the autumn of 1902 at the Sala Parés, Barcelona's most fashionable gallery. Carles Junyer Vidal was an art and drama critic and the founder of the newspaper El Liberal, which published one of the earliest favorable appraisals of Picasso's art in March 1904. The two brothers, especially Sebastià, were Picasso's constant companions between 1902 and 1904. The artist spent countless hours in the Junyer Vidals' shop, gossiping with the proprietors and sketching on their trade cards or on large sheets of wrapping paper. Chronically broke at the time, Picasso welcomed the brothers' hospitality and sporadic financial help, and he supplied them with drawings in exchange.
Sebastià Junyer Vidal's image, which is easily recognizable from his curly hair and handlebar moustache, pervades Picasso's work during this period, a testament to the close friendship that the two painters enjoyed. In 1903, Picasso painted a large canvas depicting Junyer Vidal seated at a café table alongside a bony prostitute, identified by the telltale red flower in her hair (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 174). He also portrayed his friend in an oil portrait on paper (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 214; Museu Picasso, Barcelona) and in at least twenty drawings, including a parody of Edouard Manet's Olympia (fig. 1; Zervos, vol. 6, no. 343). When Picasso left Barcelona for Paris in April 1904, it was Sebastià Junyer Vidal who accompanied him. The two shared a studio at the Bateau Lavoir for a few weeks, before Junyer Vidal returned to Barcelona and faded from Picasso's life.
The more than thirty drawings that Picasso made on the reverse of the Junyer Vidals' business cards run the gamut from depictions of the huddled, wretched souls that populate his Blue Period canvases to sardonic parodies of contemporary types and scenes of overt sexuality.
Femme nue au chien belongs to the sizable group of drawings with sexual themes that Picasso executed. These range from relatively chaste images of reclining female nudes such as the present lot (Zervos, vol. I, nos. 124-125, 128) to more graphic scenes, like one that depicts a naked woman in a contorted pose and an aging dandy whose bald head opens up into a vagina (see J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 1991, vol. I, p. 280). John Richardson, who dates the drawings to 1903, has written, "[This] group provides a microcosm of Picasso's sexual fantasies: some have a graffiti-like directness; others an adolescent prurience; the most revealing manifest a perversity and misogyny that anticipate the artist's surrealist chimeras of the 1930s" (ibid., p. 281). Likewise, Pierre Daix has commented, "There are a great many drawings which breathe physical pleasure and prowess: on the business cards of his friend Junyer Vidal and on every kind of paper, in ink, colored crayon, and watercolor. They constitute a regular theater of the erotic, whose daring is breathtaking for a period still so profoundly Victorian in outlook, and were not, in fact, made public until after the cultural revolution of the 1960s. They provide us with a dimension fundamental to an understanding of the 'blue' Picasso: sex—in all its experimental variety—must be recognized, because it is an important element in life and art" (Picasso, Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 33).
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Parodie de l’Olympia de Manet représentant Junyer et Picasso, 1901. Collection Junyer Vidal, Barcelona.