Entitled L'Aubade (The Aubade) meaning a song or poem of awakening, this large and vitally raw painting is an extraordinarily bold and fluid working on a theme that was central to much of Picasso's late work.
Depicting a frail, limp and wizened old figure attempting to awaken a far larger and extremely voluptuous female odalisque by tooting on a rather pathetic and silly-looking horn, L'Aubade presents a tragi-comic erotic scene that, like an act from some classical Greek drama, affirms the central role of eroticism in life. The two figures of L'Aubade express the paradoxical extremes of emotion that Picasso evidently experienced in the last ten years of his life and which caused him to repeatedly explore this theme in numerous depictions of the painter and the model. For Picasso in old age was both an impotent old man and the omnipotent artist whose phenomenal powers of vision and creativity remained undiminished.
With his brush and paints the eighty year-old Picasso was still an adventurous hero as in his youth. As a musketeer, matador or sailor, as Rembrandt or Velazquez, Picasso could explore and create the erotic paradise that was woman in the same way that, as Pierrot or as a Satyr or Minotaur, he had in his youth. In reality, though, Picasso was no longer capable of action. Making love was no longer possible yet, as he once observed to Brassai, "the craving is still there." (cited in, exh. cat, London, Tate Gallery, Late Picasso, 1988, p. 82).
In L'Aubade, Picasso is extraordinarily adventurous and daring in the way that he has swiftly and confidently splashed his paint onto the canvas and left it in a remarkably bold and raw state. Establishing a dramatic rhythm of form with his swirling outlines, the composition is reminiscent in both its structure and its dream-like atmosphere to the earlier Faun unveiling a sleeping woman of 1936. Like this work the scene depicted has strong erotic undertones, but, whereas in the earlier work, it is the powerful erect faun who poses a threat to the large passive sleeping woman, in L'Aubade, this threat is clearly nullified and it is, if anything, the heavy features of the reclining female that seem pregnant with danger.