The erotic art of the twentieth century’s most famous painter is copious. Scenes of bodies entwined in love recur continually in the work of this artist who never abandoned the power of figuration. When Pablo Picasso executed this painting, he was ninety years old, working with “dirty language” and rapidly. That time was of the essence in this struggle with painting is evident from the vehemence of the rendering. The quick manner and sloppy handling manifest his wish to identify things quickly, painting and drawing at the same time: “I want to say the nude, I don’t want to make just a nude as a nude; I want to say just breast, say foot, say hand, belly.” This is less an Embrace than the portrait of a couple, side by side. Here, Picasso does not make use of masks and disguises as elsewhere: there is no characteristic here but sexuality. In their nobleness and monumental nudity, this couple expresses profound anxiety. When he exhibited at the papal palace in Avignon in 1970, it caused a furor: he was considered nothing more than a disgraceful old man, an artistic has-been, before being properly re-appraised by artists and art history.
© Estate of Picasso / SOCAN (2021)