Painted in 1965 at Picasso's villa Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougins, Modèle dans l'atelier shows a naked woman cross-legged, facing the viewer, while an easel stands at the left of the work. On the easel is a canvas, upon which are the faint traces and outlines of a painting. Although the artist is not shown in the scene, his presence is clearly implied. Modèle dans l'atelier appears in this sense to belong to the series of pictures of the artist and his model that Picasso created during the first months of 1965. While of course it was a theme that had recurred in his work for many years, during these months the subject appears to have exerted some fascination on the artist, clearly reflecting some personal preoccupation. Modèle dans l'atelier reflects a sense of contentedness and sensuality in the artist's own domestic situation the picture is vigorously worked with bold colours, making it appear as a celebration of Picasso's own happiness. While the theme of the artist's model appeared in many of his works from this time, and while the woman in the work is almost certainly a representation of his wife and last Muse Jacqueline, he in fact seldom painted her from life, meaning that this is to some degree a whimsical scene from the artist's imagination, the image of the perfect studio, celebrating also an almost mythical and, in this case, fictitious image of the artist and his workings. For Picasso, painting was almost as natural-- and as necessary-- as breathing, and while his works channel his thoughts, emotions and anxieties through a visual code, he did not need the scene before him. As he explained to Françoise Gilot, 'I paint the same way some people write their autobiography' (Pablo Picasso, quoted in J. Richardson, 'L'Epoque Jacqueline,' pp. 17-48, in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London & Paris, 1988, p. 28).
This is reflected in another aspect of Modèle dans l'atelier-- this picture also provides the pretext for the artist to explore the depiction of the nude. This was a subject matter that had also long featured in Picasso's paintings, not least in his sensuous images of former lovers such as Marie-Thérèse Walter. The act of painting the body of Jacqueline is possessive and sensual in itself, all the more so because Picasso's own ability to enjoy this implied world of sense had, through his increasing age, diminished, although it was a subject about which he still thought a great deal, and felt to his core. When he saw his old friend, the photographer Brassaï, during this period, Picasso complained:
'Whenever I see you, my first impulse is to... offer you a cigarette, even though I know that neither of us smokes any longer. Age has forced us to give it up, but the desire remains. It's the same with making love. We don't do it any more but the desire is still with us!' (Pablo Picasso, quoted in ibid., p. 29).