Picasso painted Buste de femme at the beginning of 1970, and it is filled with the inventiveness that marked out his late works in particular. This reveals itself in part in the choice of support: this is a large painting on corrugated board, showing a woman painted with the sun, an intense yellow ball, in the background. The scale of this picture means that the woman approaches - or even, being shown half-length, exceeds - life size. Picasso has pared back the forms of this work with deft simplicity, recalling some of Joan Miró's pictures of the same period, and in this way has made the image all the more striking. There is an exuberance in the vertical form of this woman that lends her a springing joy. Indeed, the yellow disc of the sun recalls the beachballs that featured in Picasso's pictures from Dinard several decades earlier, accentuating the sense of play.
During the course of 1969 and the early part of 1970, Picasso was consumed with creative energy, spilling himself into his paintings with an incredible energy. The result was a fantastic group of images of various characters, women, artists, musketeers and ranks of others too, whose very multiplicity was overwhelming, let alone the impressive energy with which they had been created, all the more striking in a man approaching his ninetieth birthday.
Christian Zervos and his wife Yvonne were so impressed by this body of work that they arranged an exhibition at the Palais des Papes, held in 1970 and dedicated solely to the works of those years. Having remained a relatively discreet presence on the art scene for some time, letting his past works do most of the talking, this was an incredible and even surprising return to the attention of the public revealing an artist still consumed with energy. In his introduction, Zervos described his fascination for the works in terms which are apt when considering the passion, both physical and emotional, with which Picasso has painted Buste de femme and which lends it its charm, its sense of character and its visual impact:
'Yvonne Zervos and I began to understand that the figures that had been presented to us bore witness both to the invisible work of the artist's sensibility and to his dreams, which were tangled up in the forms and reached well beyond what the eyes could follow... Questions crowded around these figures. We were compelled to ask ourselves: Where did Picasso acquire the secret of endowing his characters with permanence and grandeur? What was the driving force that made them grow and ripen in such a singular fashion? What were the powers that allowed the artist to lend his figures intangible qualities? How did he manage to sustain the plenitude of their forms? We became intensely absorbed in the task of penetrating the mystery of these characters and divining the secret plans whereby Picasso managed to impose an ever-renewed order' (C. Zervos, 'Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970', pp. 292-94, J. Richardson (ed.), Picasso: Mosqueteros, exh. cat., New York, 2009, p. 293).