Pablo Picasso

(Malaga, 1881 - Mougins, 1973)
Pencil on paper 50.5 x 65.8 cm (19.9 x 25.9 in.) Signed in lower right corner 'Picasso' 1942-43

Picasso was an untiring draftsman throughout his life, drawing with rapid and confident pencil strokes, never correcting himself. Such assertiveness speaks from the single continuous line tracing the silhouette of a woman’s naked body seen in profile in this work. Without lifting the pencil, he molds the figure out of a vibrant and yet calm and lucid line that contains and channels the body’s energies. Picasso’s goal was to „set things in motion“ and „provoke that movement through contradictory tensions, through antagonistic forces.“ His pictures and figures are animated by the play of contraries, by the paradoxical union of formal pictorial articulation, visual experience, and idealist imagination. The round shapes of the softly modeled body clash with a statuesque and monumental posture and hieratic gravity of expression. An unexpected effect is achieved by the interplay between surface and space.

Although the figure is honed down to the indispensable outlines—a minimum of lines that barely meet or only gently touch upon one another, without shading or hatching—it has volume. The style is reminiscent of John Flaxman’s planar contour drawings inspired by Greek vase painting. Despite the lack of contextual clues—a single line beneath the body hints at a daybed—the drawing suggests spatial depth. Line, shape, and volume are joined in brilliantly executed


The artist distinctly disavows any interest in the nude as a vessel of meaning and emotions. Just as Picasso’s Cubist paintings, deconstructing the human figure into elements, nonetheless retain an echo of its integrity in an ensemble of lines, this work offers an abstract treatment of the human likeness reduced to an outline, approaching it as a formal and structural problem. While the drawing does not lend its subject concrete individuality, the style of the lines, the august expression giving the figure a heroic air, and the figural ideal show the influence of classical antiquity. Yet Picasso combines these attributes with unconventional elongated proportions and what appear to be bloated limbs. In other periods of the artist’s oeuvre, the conflict between formal perfection and deformation makes for a shocking experience; here, by contrast, it appears subdued, cloaked in the equanimity of ancient art. Throughout his oeuvre, Picasso’s art incorporates references to antiquity and mirages of its

revival; he went through two classicist phases.

The second phase ended in 1925 in his paintings, but in his drawings and prints it extended into the 1930s. Few drawings by Picasso are directly comparable to this work. The same harmony and a similarly calm and unbroken line are present in his prints from the 1930s, as in the famous Suite Vollard (1930–1937), which varies the theme of artist and model. The influence of the beauteous line in the art of Jean-Dominique Ingres is unmistakable; time and again one spots the stern, almost Greek features of Marie-Thérèse Walter, who was Picasso’s lover between 1927 and 1936: the straight line of forehead and nose, the round jaw-line. She recognizably also sat for this drawing.

Similar characteristics—the reduction to a single unbroken line, the absence of internal modeling, the gentle deformation of parts of the body, and the

unfinished execution of the feet—may be found in a drawing of a seated female nude dated 1943 that is now in the Würth Collection. Yet there a more vigorously undulating and decorative line effects a greater decomposition of form.

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W&K-Wienerroither & Kohlbacher

"Early 20th Century Viennese Art and German Expressionism"

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