A capricious scene filled with life and movement, Nu dansant et arlequin was executed by Picasso in 1970. By this late period of his life, Picasso confined himself increasingly to his home in Mougins, seldom venturing forth. However, not only did he continue to innovate in his art, but he also kept alive in his imagination a vivid world of fantasy. Nu dansant et arlequin is one of a series of pictures in which Picasso explored the lyrical theme of a lady dancing naked in front of a harlequin. This latter character adds a great sense of the theatrical to the picture, while the naked woman seems to hint at some fantastic freedom, a freedom that was in great contrast to his increasing immobility and isolation. The harlequin had featured almost throughout Picasso's life, and appeared in some wise as a manifestation of his own persona. Its merest presence brings with it an air of comedy, of entertainment. Although Picasso had used this to create poignant images during his Blue and Rose periods, contrasting the flamboyant clothing with mournful expressions, here there is no such sense of melancholy. Instead, the harlequin seems to be filled with mock coyness, revelling in the sight of the naked lady. In his later works like Nu dansant et arlequin, Picasso was not mourning the loss of his former energy so much as reviving it, if only in pictorial form. When he visualised these lively subjects later in his life, it was not with the intent of torturing himself or bemoaning his old age, but was instead a way of invoking the spirit of the scene.
This sense of invocation is as apparent in the subject matter as it is in the vivid and vivacious style with which Nu dansant et arlequin has been drawn. There is an almost violent sense of activity apparent in the lines, especially those with which he has hatched and coloured the harlequin's clothes.
The sense of life with which Nu dansant et arlequin is so redolent is enhanced not only by the style with which Picasso has rendered the scene, but also the medium. Picasso had found that coloured crayons, traditionally associated with the art of children, filled his works with ardent colour, here made to sing in relief by muted background. Picasso sought in part to infuse his works with energy and sheer childish glee through his use of crayons, but also through his use of such an incongruous medium, to shock his viewer. One imagines Picasso enjoying the outrage of his audience as he created works in such an untraditional medium. At the same time, there is also a great sense of defiance: in Nu dansant et arlequin, Picasso shows the world that, despite his age and despite the limitations of his medium, he can still create a magical and engaging work of art.