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. Around this time his companion Françoise Gilot took their children Claude and Paloma to Paris, where she was working on costumes and designs for a ballet. Their relationship was coming to an end. Picasso wanted a third child, but Françoise refused, as she wanted to spend more time on her own art, which Picasso had previously discouraged. Françoise, moreover, could no longer ignore the many affairs that Picasso had been involved in while they were living together. The family was reunited for the summer but by mid-September 1953 Picasso and Françoise parted again, this time for good.
Picasso met Jacqueline Roque, a young divorcée who worked at the Ramie's Madoura pottery works in Vallauris, in August, but they did not initiate their relationship until the following spring. He 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 familiarly heroic scale, contains memories of Françoise. The angular conception of the figure recalls the painting Nu accroupi (Françoise) painted on 9 July 1953 (fig. 1). 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, seated as if on a throne.
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Nu accroupi (Françoise). The St. Louis Art Museum, Gift of Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.