The end of the First War had a huge impact on Picasso's life and artistic development. He found himself deprived of the intelligent support of his dealer, Kahnweiler, who, having refused Germany's call-up and having not enlisted under French colours either, was confined to Berne.
Picasso was compelled to choose a new dealer: Paul Rosenberg, a much less adventurous and daring entrepreneur than his predecessor. Rosenberg had a rather cautious approach to Cubism (still associated, for most of the Parisian public, with the pre-war scandals and a sense of incomprehensible, radical innovation), and recommended Picasso to paint more realistically, and to renew his ties with classical tradition.
The birth, in 1921, of the artist's first child, Paulo, and the more settled lifestyle his wife Olga imposed on the family (now living in a large villa in Fontainebleau) were amongst the reasons why Picasso abandoned Cubism in favour of a new, highly inspired creative phase, which reached its peak with the major compositions of 1922-23, such as Deux femmes courant sur la plage (1922, Musée Picasso, Paris, Z380, vol. 4) and Jeune homme et joueur de flûte de Pan (1923, Musée Picasso, Paris, Z141, vol. 5, fig.1).
The return to the figurative dominated this era. Linear austerity and purity of volumes became paramount in the artist's new stylistic development, aligned with the Antique. Picasso's stay in Rome with Jean Cocteau in 1917, during which he had completed his first stage set, Parade, had deeply marked his imagination. The majesty of Roman imperial statuary dictated his new predilection for heavy, cumbersome bodies, defined by strikingly flawless lines. Yet, these imposing figures are imbued with such classical balance and supreme calm, that the compositions exude a sense of Arcadian stillness and grace.
After the horrors of the war and the "disorders" of Cubism, Picasso strived for order, which he could only find in the unadulterated world of Classical illusion.
Stylistically, the drawings executed between 1921 and 1924 are a tour de force of harmony and control. In the present work, Picasso masterly combines the strength of the dark Indian ink with the unforgiving background of the bright sheet, reaching an unprecedented level of formal synthesis and expressive power.