Pablo Picasso - Nude in a Red Armchair - 1932 - Oil on Canvas 130x97cm


After World War I, Picasso's art changed direction, away from Cubism and towards a style inspired by antique sculpture. This Neo-Classical period lasted until about 1925 when his art developed a more personal and expressive style derived from Cubism.

In this painting the blocks of simple colours, repeated shapes and playful ambiguity show the influence of Synthetic Cubism. However, the outlines are now sinuous not geometric and they follow the contours of colours instead of being independent of them. Also, the colours complement each other. These differences and the sensuous subject matter seem to be a response to Matisse's nudes.

The painting shows a woman, naked except for a bead necklance, sitting in an armchair. As we look at the picture, the woman and the chair do not face us squarely, instead they are angled to our left. Her gaze does not meet ours but looks over our left shoulder. The woman's left leg is crossed over her right. Her elbows rest on the arms of the chair and her head rests in her hands. The bottom of the canvas cuts her legs off above the knee. She fills the painting so that we see very little around her, except for a number of lines that we read as skirting boards and dado rails.

The model is Picasso's lover Marie-Thérèse Walter who was his muse during the 1930s. They had met five years earlier when she was 17 and she provided an emotional haven during the acrimonious divorce from his first wife. Marie-Thérèse is painted as a series of fluid curves and circles that echo the shapes of her erotic anatomy. These forms are repeated in different colours, combinations and sizes, like visual rhymes. The most striking feature is her face.

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