Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
In 1953, the public and private spheres of Picasso's life, as he had cultivated them since the end of the Second World War, suddenly came apart. In March Picasso published in Les lettres francaises a drawing of Stalin commemorating the Soviet leader's recent death. The French Communist Party, of which Picasso had been a member since 1944, publicly condemned the drawing as being disrespectful. The resultant rift between the artist and the Party was never reconciled, and led Picasso to abandon politics. As the summer of that year was drawing to a close, Françoise, his lover of the past seven years, learned that she must go to Paris for urgently needed surgery. She could not arrange for help at home to look after the children during her hospitalization. Picasso protested that he was too busy to let her take the time she needed. "I decided there was only thing to do: return to Paris with the children," she later wrote. "I served notice on Pablo that as of September 30 I was moving with them to the apartment in the Rue Gay-Lussac and enrolling them at the Ecole Alsacienne for the fall term. Right up to the last minute Pablo was convinced I would back down. When the taxi pulled up and I got into it with the children and our bags, he was so angry he didn't even say good-bye. He shouted 'Merde!' and went back into the house" (ibid., p. 357). Accustomed for all his adult life to deciding himself when a relationship was over and done with, Picasso took Françoise's decision and departure as severe blows to his pride.
Picasso now lived alone in his house "La Galloise" in Vallauris. On 28 November he began a series of drawings, mainly on the theme of the artist and model that he continued until 3 February 1954, numbering one hundred and eighty in all, which were published in special double issue of Verve later that year. Filled with self-deprecating satire and irony, the series "summarized the absurd drama of creation, of the insolvable duality between art and life, between art and love" (M.L.Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 397).
The present drawing, executed while the Verve series was in progress, but on a much larger and more heroic scale, contains memories of Françoise. The slim angled figure of Françoise, presents his ex-lover enthroned, exposing the fully nude body of his past muse and the mother of his children directly to the viewer. "Her youth and vivacity, the chestnut colour of her luminous eyes, and her intelligent and authoritative approach," Roland Penrose rhapsodized, "gave her a presence which was both Arcadian and very much of this earth" (Picasso: His Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, p. 358). Her presence had been absolutely essential to the remarkable endeavor upon which Picasso set forth during the post-war years—no mean feat for a man who in 1951 turned seventy years old—within a context Michael FitzGerald delineated as "a triangle of ambitions: art, politics and the family" (Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, pp. 409-445). Picasso executed two related large wash drawings of seated nudes on 6 December and a third on 7 December (Zervos, vol. 16, nos. 33, 35 and 34, respectively). All of these drawings show the figure as seen simultaneously from multiple points of view. Unlike several contemporary portraits that bear Françoise's features (Z. vol. 15, no. 252 and vol. 16, no. 53), Picasso here seems less interested in the specific identity of his model and his emotional connection to her, than he is drawn to her imposing and complex physicality, as the embodiment of the idea of Woman.