This work belongs to the remarkable sequence of portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Thérèse Walter at his country property at Boisgeloup. Marie-Thérèse is presented here – as in most of her portraits – as a series of sensuous curves. Even the scrolling arms of the chair have been heightened and exaggerated to echo the rounded forms of her body. The face is a double or metamorphic image: the right side can also be seen as the face of a lover in profile, kissing her on the lips.
Confronted by old age and impotence, Picasso was defiantly productive. These works are drawn from the series of 156 prints which he made between 1970 and 1972, around the age of 90. The series has been compared to a private theater, in which the actors are Picasso himself, his close friends, and his favorite artists of the past. In the works shown here, Picasso appears as both a gnarled satyr, and as a shadowy silhouette looking on at two prostitutes. The face of his wife Jacqueline is portrayed in an artist’s sketchbook, as he watches a group of top-hatted clients enter a brothel. The Impressionist artist Edgar Degas appears as a frock-coated voyeur. The fixation with sexuality and voyeurism is bound up with an awareness of mortality. For Picasso, art had become the only means to defy the approach of death.