The surface of Paysage jostles with a vibrant, frenetic energy. Painted by Picasso in May 1965, this is one of a group of half a dozen pictures of the period showing the countryside around his new home at Mougins, the villa named Notre-Dame-de-Vie. Of these pictures, two are in museum collections, one in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich and another in the Kunstmuseum Hannover und Sammlung Sprengel.
Picasso had moved to Notre-Dame-de-Vie, which was to be his final residence, in 1961, shortly after he married Jacqueline Roque, his second wife. In part, his move to Mougins was a reaction to two of his other homes--both of which he nonetheless kept. One was the Villa La Californie, which had become less and less secluded due to encroaching developments following the growth of tourism in Cannes. The second was the imposing Château de Vauvenargues which was located within the landscapes immortalized by his revered hero, Cézanne. Picasso himself owned several pictures by Cézanne including landscapes, allowing him to feel firmly immersed within the trailblazing artistic roots of that region. While he still visited Vauvenargues sometimes, and was in fact buried there, from the beginning of the 1960s, Notre-Dame-de-Vie was the center of his universe.
The layout of Notre-Dame-de-Vie appears to have facilitated such landscape views, as it had vast windows with great vistas, recalling the pictures that Picasso had created among the pigeons at the top of the Villa La Californie. Picasso created landscape views of Mougins on several occasions, and indeed had already turned to the subject of his surroundings in a group of images from February 1965, only a few months before Paysage was painted. Those works show several differences with their later fellows: often, they were more turbulent; at the same time, they focused on the more natural landscape. By contrast, in the pictures made in May, Picasso appears to have paid more attention to the buildings in Mougins. In Paysage and several of its sister images, he has used the vertical form of the skyscraper-like building in the middle as a bold point of central focus. Instead of being presented as a bleak, industrial form, though, it is shown with dotted outlines that look almost like scrollwork, while it is partly pinkish in color, like the sky, perhaps hinting at a crepuscular setting.
The surface of Paysage is not as turbulent as some of the earlier pictures that Picasso had created of Mougins, but looking at the sky in particular, though, and also the mountains in the background, it is clear that there is a vigorous energy at work. In this, it recalls one of Picasso's other heroes, and a near-constant companion in his imagination during his years in the South of France: Van Gogh. That artist had made his own home in Arles almost a century earlier, and Picasso was keenly aware of this. As Hélène Parmelin would recall: "I've seen Picasso in the lovely town of Arles, storming through hotel corridors full of reproductions of Van Gogh. Postcards of Van Gogh's little room were pinned up in the bedrooms." (op. cit., p. 122).
The imminence of his own end may also have linked with Van Gogh. "The more one studies these late paintings, the more one realizes that they are, like Van Gogh's terminal landscapes, a supreme affirmation of life in the teeth of death" (Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London, 1988, p. 34).