Animated by humorous lust, Homme et femme was completed by Picasso on the last day of January 1969, together with another closely related drawing (Z.31.46). In subject-matter and style, the pair continued to explore an idea Picasso had toyed with the previous day (Z.31.42-4): across the series, a voluptuous nude woman stands provocatively close to a man, who at times appear in his trunks and at times – as illustrated in the present drawing – naked.
In Homme et femme, Picasso materialised the erotic force of the female figure through the use of colour: a heated pink, in stark contrast with the paper-tint of the male figure. The graphic style with which the two figures are outlined is characteristic of Picasso’s copious drawing production of the late 1960s: expressive, almost caricatural and endowed with inventive directness. Approaching his nineties at the time, Picasso would only rarely leave his Notre-Dame-de-Vie villa, where he lived with Jacqueline. Drawing thus became an impulsive, liberating medium, in which to pour and exploit fantasies, emotions and impulses the artist was no longer able to realise in his real life.
Like the rest of Picasso’s 1960s drawings, Homme et femme depicts anonymous, eternal figures, whose universal character the artist could dress up to his liking in order to fit the rambunctious stories of his imagination. Picasso explained: 'I spend hour after hour while I draw (…) observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they're up to: basically it's my way of writing fiction’ (quoted in J. Richardson, ‘L'Epoque Jacqueline’, in Late Picasso, exh. cat., London, 1988, pp. 28-29).
It is not difficult to guess, however, in the broad nose of the man and the distinctive profile of the woman, the presence of Picasso and Jacqueline themselves. Forty-six years his junior, Jacqueline would dominate the artist’s last years, providing Picasso with comfort and support, but also with enduring inspiration. At a time when carnal love had become but a pressing memory for the artist, Jacqueline’s youth and dedication would inspire Picasso with an ever-flowing imagery of lustful encounters and lascivious adventures. Although exorcising Picasso’s melancholic remembrance of sensual passion, works such as Homme et femme appears above all as joyful, humorous celebrations of the force and pleasure of youth, while affirming the ever-young creative spirit of a genius at ninety.