Picasso painted, drew and etched the theme of the artist and model many times throughout his life.
In 1926, having been commissioned by Vollard to illustrate Balzac's Le Chef-d'oeuvre in-connu, he became interested in "The multilevel relationships between the model as what the artist's eye sees, its image on the canvas and the artist himself by placing in the studio, a portrait of the artist or a sculpture whose model was no longer visible." (K. Gallwitz, Picasso, The Heroic Years, New York, 1985, p. 161)
Picasso took up this theme briefly in 1953-54 mostly expressed in drawings. Ten years later, in the Spring of 1963, he returned again to this subject, this time without any preliminary drawing, in a series
of vibrantly coloured and freely worked pictures. Hélène Parmelin, a friend of Picasso recorded, "In February 1963, Picasso went wild. He painted The Artist and His Model, and from that moment on he painted like a a mad thing in a frenzy, as perhaps never before."
"Michel Leiris, analysing the deeper significance of the artist-and-model theme finds in it two underlying elements. One is that of voyeurism, the acting-out of looking, the starting-point of creation 'eye and hand'; and the other is that of mockery of his own profession, the acting-out of painting. Through all these manifold scenes Picasso is asking himself the question, 'what is a painter? A man who works with brushes, a dauber, an unrecognised genius, or a demiurge, a creator who mistakes himself for God?'
Through the constant recapitulation of this scenario he is also trying to capture the impossible, the secret alchemy that takes place between the real model, the artist's vision and feeling, and the reality of paint. Which of these three elements will prevail, and how is each to maintain its true character? 'No model, no painter,' he said, confirming yet again his indestructible attachment to the external world." (Exhibition Catalogue, Late Picasso, Paintings, Sculpture Drawings and Prints 1953-1972, London, p.p. 74-76