One of twenty artist's proofs of the second (final) state, of which eight were signed, outside the edition of 50
Signed in pencil, lower right
Inscribed "epreuve d'artiste" in pencil, lower left
Printed by Arnéra, 1962-63
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1963
Image: 13 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches
Sheet: 24 5/8 x 17 3/8 inches
Framed: 27 5/8 x 20 7/8 inches
(Bloch 1086) (Baer 1330.II.B.b.)
The female nude is one of Picasso’s most enduring themes, and like that of the artist and his model, a particular focus of his late work. Living from June 1961 in Mougins, a village in the hills above Cannes, with his second wife Jacqueline, Picasso engaged in an obsessive portrayal of her face and body that was to last the rest of his life. Forty-five years Picasso’s junior, Jacqueline Roque shared his short stocky build and his large and brilliant dark eyes. Having met the artist in 1952, she quickly gained a central position in Picasso’s affections, becoming his lover, muse and eventually his wife—the last great female presence in Picasso’s life and the subject of innumerable paintings and prints produced over the next twenty years. Jacqueline first appears in Picasso’s drawings in his series of the Painter and his Model, created in early 1954. While her striking profile features repeatedly, particularly in his lithographs and etchings in the second half of the 1950s, it is her body that Picasso portrays in his many representations of the female nude and the erotic during the 1960s and early 1970s.
In February 1960, Picasso began working on a series of paintings responding to the famous painting Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) by Édouard Manet, a continuation of his variations on the work of old masters that had begun with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) in 1907. These variations were to become increasingly important in his later years as, feeling secure in his reputation as one of the contemporary ‘greats’, he took on Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69), Diego Velàzques (1599-1660), Francisco Goya (1746-1828) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) among others, measuring himself against their heroic artistic longevity. Unlike Manet’s elegant, naturalistic figures, the characters in Picasso’s bucolic landscapes are large and awkward, some recalling the stylization of the Bathers from the 1930s, others more realistically portrayed in the shorthand manner that is typical of Picasso’s late work. With her tiny head above a monumentally-scaled body, the figure depicted in Nu Assis resembles many of the nudes that feature in Picasso’s suite of homages to Manet that he completed, after producing no less than twenty-six paintings, in August 1961. Seated on a block-like structure that could be a stool, or a sculptural plinth, the nude in this image has a crude physicality that is emphasized by the medium of linocut—the rough linear highlighting on her body suggesting the primitivism often associated with the woodcut. Her heavy haunches and long hair recall the figure in a slightly earlier linocut—Grand nu dansant (March 4, Bloch 1085/Baer 1309)—showing a large-bottomed lady caught in a dancing pose. The double viewpoint permitting buttocks to be visible simultaneously with breasts is common to both images, a Cubist tactic also used in the artist’s portraits of Jacqueline’s face at this time, as in Portrait de Jacqueline de face. I and Portrait de Jacqueline de face. II (Bloch 1063) and Jacqueline au bandeau de face (Bloch 1069). Picasso was to make this doubling of the viewpoint on the female nude a significant feature in his paintings and prints of the next ten years.
For Picasso, new printing techniques were like new lovers, inspiring him to renew his creative instincts and to enter new artistic territories. Having mastered the processes of etching in the 1930s and lithography in the 1940s, on moving permanently to the Côte d’Azur in 1948, Picasso became increasingly frustrated with the lengthy process of sending his plates back to the Paris workshops of Roger Lacourière and Fernand Mourlot for printing, before he could develop the next state. Although his son Paolo often did the courier work for him, the situation was clearly unsatisfactory, and slowed the energetic artist down. Fortunately, near his home in Vallauris, Picasso encountered a local man, Hidalgo Arnéra, who specialized in printing newspapers and posters. In 1951 when Picasso was invited to create a poster to advertise the town’s annual art exhibition, Arnéra suggested that he use linocut, which is relatively easy to cut and print and can easily accommodate text, making it ideal for poster design. Picasso followed Arnéra’s advice and created several linocut posters in the early and mid 1950s, some of them advertising local bullfights, but it was not until 1958 that he created his first independent linocut, Portrait of a Young Girl, after Cranach the Younger. For the next eight years, linocut was Picasso’s printing method of choice and he subjected it to his usual innovative scrutiny, inventing the reductive technique as a solution to the problem of having to cut multiple individual pieces of linoleum when making a print in several colors. Instead, Picasso carved successively into a single block, reusing it for each color and saving significantly on time.
Picasso created Nu Assis on April 23, 1962 in three colors and two states. The second state was printed on Arches wove paper in an edition of fifty plus twenty artist’s proofs, eight of which were signed by the artist. This impression is one of the signed artist’s proofs.