This ravishing drawing comes near the end of a long line of works that Picasso painted and drew over the course of his career, which were inspired by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' painting Le bain turc (fig. 1). John Richardson has observed that "As for the various nineteenth century masters included in Picasso's pantheon, the most consistent favourite for more than seventy years was Ingres," and quotes Picasso, "'One must paint like Ingres,' he said. 'We must be like Ingres.'" (in Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 36).
Picasso, like many of his contemporaries, first saw Ingres' late masterwork at the 1905 Salon d'Automne, to which it had been lent by its erstwhile owner, Prince Amédée de Broglie, who sold it to the Louvre in 1911. The painting included nearly a score of nude female figures, comprising a virtual catalogue of poses from which Picasso, Matisse, Derain and others frequently borrowed and reworked. In fact, Picasso even alluded to the table at the lower center of Ingres' painting in his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 (Zervos, vol. 2*, no. 18; The Museum of Modern Art, New York). Le bain turc was chief among those works by Ingres that drew Picasso away from an exclusively cubist approach to painting, and led him to explore a new classicizing manner, his own retour à Ingres, during and after the First World War. Most of Picasso's bather subjects, from the Biarritz beach drawings of 1918 through the surrealist figures of the 1930s, and many of his nudes thereafter, bear the imprint, directly or less apparently, of Ingres' Le bain turc. These paintings show the degree to which Picasso had appropriated and assimilated its classical, yet sensual, voyeuristic and Orientalist character.
Picasso made several groups of drawings and etchings on the bain turc theme in 1968. The present drawing commenced a final set of three drawings executed on 1 November, and is the only work, apart from an etching (Baer no. 1786), which includes the nude female lute player, whose source is the seated figure with her back to the viewer in Ingres' painting. In these drawings and prints Picasso, using a continuous line of ingenious virtuosity, reveled in the felicities of rendering groups of nudes, in which varied poses dovetailed with one another, creating a rhythmical, almost dance-like ensemble of female figures.
(fig. 1) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Le bain turc, 1863. Musée du Louvre, Paris.