Nu au bord de la mer, is a very important work, executed in Picasso's hugely important transitional period from Cubism to Classicism. The Classical revival had gathered momentum during the First World War in France and Italy, and had rapidly spread after peace was decaled. For Picasso, like many others, a return to the classical appears to have acted as a stable ground following the horrors of the war. The subject of Nu au bord de la mer is most certainly classical, and the static nude is a definite imitation of famed classical art. Patient and statuesque, she seems to be dreaming of a coming ideal. By returning his attention back to the history of art, Picasso was able to create a monumental and statuesque figure, with the calm serenity and order of classical art.
During this unsettling period in his life Picasso reached back to his Mediterranean roots. His trip to Rome in 1917 had put Picasso back in touch with the Mediterranean, reviving his passion for the ancient world and his delight in Classical forms. This passion soon began to take over his work, and on his return to Paris, Picasso's work showed frequent reference to Classical subjects. Another profound influence at this time was Picasso's involvement with Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, which bought him into contact with a new social milieu, and more impotantly with the Ballet Russes dancer Olga Khokhlova, who Picasso married in July 1918. Drawn so shortly after their marraige, Nu au bord de la mer is most certainly based on Olga.
Olga's classical beauty and dancer's body contributed significantly to the resurgence of classicism in Picasso's work. She made it easy for Picasso to draw comparisons with the great masters of the past, in particular those of the 19th century. In Nu au bord de la mer Picasso seems to have incorporated elements of both Olga, notably her distinctive facial features and hair-style, with typically classical elements, most evidently the archetypal reclining pose. Strongly influenced by the sensual female pose of European tradition, one can easily draw references to the influence of Ingres in this work. Like, Ingres,who is known for his voluptuous female figures, depicted with immense grace and sensitivity, as seen in Le Grande Odalisque, Picasso seems to be exaggerating the forms of this nude in order to achieve the monumental effect of Classical art. In Nu au bord de la mer, Picasso represents a linear figure that follows Olga's elegant contours with the precise line borrowed from Ingres. Set against a neutral non-representational background, the emphasis is is on the nude, who becomes part of her naturalistic setting. The fact that Picasso has used this fascinating idea in such an early drawing is quite monumental, as it forsees the way for Picasso's important series of bather and beach scenes.