Verre et radis belongs to a series of still lifes on which Picasso worked during June 1944 (Zervos, vol. 13, nos. 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 285). Depicting a lemon, a few radishes and a glass over a checkered tablecloth, they appear as variations of the same subject, tracing the working of Picasso’s mind as he tried to vividly convey this small group of objects with a few sparse, yet commanding brushstrokes. In full command of his powers, Picasso worked extremely rapidly on the series: on the same day he completed Verre et radis, the artist also finished three other related still lifes (Zervos, vol. 13, nos. 280, 281, 282), one of which is now part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Throughout the series, Picasso tried to extract from its subject a convincing geometrical synthesis of forms, to which a few decisive, single brushstrokes of colour add a lively dimension.
Dated 18 June 1944, Verre et radis was executed at the height of the Second World War. On the 6th of June, the Allies had bravely landed on the coast of Normandy, accelerating the defeat of the German forces. Following suit, Charles de Gaulle established the Free French Forces, liberating a third of the country and joining its efforts to those of the Allies. At the time, Picasso was living in Paris, where he most likely was able to closely follow the progression of the conflict. As the war raged, Picasso continued to work, further developing the subjects and visual languages that had occupied him before the conflict. The tension and anguish of those difficult years, however, inevitably crept into his work. After the Liberation, the artist admitted: ‘I did not paint the war because I am not the kind of painter who searches for a subject, like a photographer. But there is no doubt that the war exists in the paintings I did at the time’ (Picasso, quoted in B. Léal, C. Piot & M.L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2003, p. 343).