Having contracted tuberculosis at the tender age of 13, Antonio Saura began his self-taught exploration of painting and writing during his several years of rehabilitation. Saura's early artistic endeavours were highly influenced by his Spanish compatriots, the great Surrealist artists including, Joan Mirò, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel. During the mid-fifties Saura lived and worked in Paris becoming an active member of the Surrealist group led by Andre Breton. The political unrest in his native Spain prompted Saura to adopt a much more expressive style of painting which focused on protesting Franco's dictatorial regime. Having returned to Spain, Saura became a founding member of the El Paso group which propagated the politically radical post-war ideology of France's Art Informel. Working in series- women, self-portraits, crucifixions, shrouds, multitudes, and many other subjects- Saura became highly influenced by the Spanish master Francisco José Goya y Lucientes who, like Saura, challenged the political regime of his time.
In early 1985, Saura was commissioned to paint a set of large-scale works to be exhibited in the abbeys of Senanque and Montmajour, the 12th century Romanesque architectural marvels located in southern France. "During the first months of 1985, I had at my disposal a space of adequate dimensions to execute a series of large pictures to be exhibited during the summer in the abbeys of Senanque and Montmajour. One of the themes selected was that of the woman-armchair. The result of these paintings was different from the series executed in 1967, not only because of the different technique employed but also because of the large-scale forms used. All these paintings are named after goddesses from different mythologies.… I wanted the title to impinge upon the sacred character and the distant resonances which provided the motivating impulse behind the works" (Saura quoted in Antonio Saura, exh. cat., Museo d'Arte Moderna, Milan 1994, p. 147).
For the present work, Tlacolteult dans son fauteuil, Saura uses vigorous Pre-Columbian mythology, Tlacolteult was the goddess of earth, sex, childbirth and maternity. Often represented throughout history as fertile with opulent breasts and exposed genitalia, the grotesque goddess was referred to as 'the eater of filth' because she was said to have visited people at the end of their lives to eat the filth, or rather, the sins they confessed to on their deathbeds. Such subjects fascinated Saura, who was once quoted as saying: "I am a man who loves the beauty of women; yet those I paint are not beautiful. But after all, the prehistoric Venuses are monstrous; monstrous and marvellous. To love, to protest, to destroy: this is painting" (Saura quoted in Saura, exh. cat., Matisse, New York 1964, p. 2).