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Pablo Picasso

(Spanish, 1881-1973)

Homme et femme nus

29 November 1971
crayon and India ink on paper
50.5 x 66.2 cm (19⅞ x 28⅛ in.)
signed, dated and numbered ‘Picasso 29.11.71. III’ (lower right)

Galerie Louis Leiris, Paris
Marlborough Gallery, Madrid & New York

C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Œuvres de 1971 à 1972, vol. XXXIII, Paris, 1958, p. 84, no. 248 (illustrated)

New York, Marlborough Gallery, On Paper: Selected Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries, 2000, p. 28, no. 103 (illustrated)
Florida, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Picasso: Passion and Creation / The Last Thirty Years, 2001, p. 41 (titled Male and Female Nudes, illustrated)

A powerful example of Pablo Picasso’s mature drawing, Homme et femme nus is imbued with an extraordinary sensuality and eroticism. Depicting a woman languorously enclosed within the embrace of a somewhat satyr-like male, the present work superbly embodies the words of the critic Jeffrey Hoffeld: ‘[Picasso, in his art,] is a voluptuary, hedonist worshipper of flesh and orgiastic tumble’ (Jeffrey Hoffeld, Picasso, The Late Drawings, New York, 1988, p. 6)

Homme et femme nus, executed in crayon and India ink, expertly combines the two mediums exemplifying Picasso’s technical brilliance. The blurring washes of ink are used to create an atmosphere of confusion and the rendering of the bodies as a composite of disjointed and angular planes recalls Picasso’s Cubist experimentations of the 1910s. Underlying ripples of sexual frustration and the struggles and physical hardships facing the aging painter are given potent expression in this work, as Hoffeld notes: ‘Contortionist sexual gymnastics, if only portrayed rather than actually lived, vicariously restore confidence, relive despair, and provide recollected moments of orgasmic oblivion.’ (ibid., p. 13). Picasso’s sensual rendering of the female body and the voyeuristic old man behind her give resonance to the words of the artist’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso: ‘What underlies Picasso’s entire work – the only thing – is an erotic drive transformed into artistic desire. One is an extension of the other’ (Diana Widmaier Picasso, Picasso, ‘Art Can Only Be Erotic’, Munich, 2005, p. 7).

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