Drawn with an impressive economy of means, Fillette is a delicate portrait by Picasso depicting Anne Boncenne, the young daughter of the drawing's first owner. The drawing marks the culmination of two other studies the artist executed of the same small girl (Zervos, vol. 30, nos. 345 and 347). Before portraying the child in full length, Picasso sketched her face multiple times on a single sheet and on another depicted her seated. Adopting a more formal pose and executed in finer detail, Fillette illustrates Picasso’s final rendition of the subject. In all its simplicity, the drawing nevertheless captures that hesitating curiosity that sometimes seizes small children in front of an unknown adult, halting for a moment their relentless movement. With a serious look and an arm half withdrawn, the small girl seems to have paused in her wondering, perhaps to consider the presence of the artist himself in front of her. Three years later, Picasso explored a similar idea in the famous portrait of his son Paulo (fig. 1; Zervos, vol. 5, no. 374), in which the small boy is portrayed as a pierrot caught in a similar state of candid scrutiny.
The round and linear forms employed by Picasso in Fillette are consistent with the classical and monumental style the artist had adopted in the early 1920s. In his paintings, Picasso had indeed introduced colossal figures, endowed with clear profiles and sculptural bodies. This aesthetic was reflected, in Picasso’s drawings by a precise, single line graphic style of "Ingresian" inspiration. One of the most remarkable expressions of this style is found in a series of portraits of several of his friends and acquaintances that Picasso executed in 1922: André Derain, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Igor Stravinsky among others. Of great acumen and precision, those portraits were executed only a few months following Fillette. Depicting a more endearing and spontaneous subject, Fillette displays a similar, yet less restrained graphic style, offering a more vibrant counterpart to those portraits’ authoritative stillness and meticulous rigor. During the same year, the birth of Picasso’s first son Paulo inspired him to undertake a celebrated series of portraits, where he is sometimes depicted with his mother Olga, and which share the same sense of tenderness and fascination seen in Fillette.
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Le fils de l'artiste en pierrot, 28 February 1925. Musée Picasso, Paris.