An image of Nude in a rocking chair

Pablo Picasso

(Spain, France 25 Oct 1881 – 08 Apr 1973)

Nude in a rocking chair

19th & 20th c European art
Further information

By the time he painted this faceless female figure, Picasso was a towering legend of modern art. Yet to say she is faceless is not entirely accurate: across her torso, breasts, belly and pudenda the painter has inscribed the disconcerting semblance of his own features. Her nipples are the tell-tale black pupils of his eyes, her serrated vagina is his equally aggressive mouth. Having thus invaded her body, his own erupts in the manner of a physiological mutation. It is not an easy image, but it is wholly truthful to Picasso's deepest intuitions and experience. Anger belies the innocuousness of the subject matter. Fear underscores the anger. It is only very marginally a work of art about appearances. Instead, Picasso enacts a form of black magic, an exorcising ritual of bodily destruction and psychic derangement that plays fast and loose with reality - all within the conventions of the seated portrait. That he did this through the agency of his last great love, Jacqueline Roque, setting her violated form in the serenity of his new villa at Cannes, is admirable and repulsive in equal measure. The gesticulating palm tree may well allude to Matisse, whose recent death reminded Picasso of the inescapability of mortality.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.

oil on canvas
196.0 x 130.8 cm stretcher; 213.0 x 147.5 x 8.0 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed u.r., black oil "Picasso". Dated c. verso canvas, black oil "26.3./ 56.".

Purchased 1981
Accession number
© Pablo Picasso/Succession Pablo Picasso. Licensed by Copyright Agency
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, Paris/France, No 07147 [label verso]
Theodor Ahrenberg, Stockholm/Sweden, by 1960. 'Living with Matisse, Picasso, and Christo. Theodor Ahrenberg and his collections' page 138, B&W photo of painting hanging in Ahrenberg's home 1960
Kronofogdemyndigheten, Stockholm/Sweden, Enforcement Authority, by 1963. Ahrenberg was prosecuted for tax evasion and his art collection confiscated and sold in a series of auctions beginning in 1963
Galerie Beyeler, Feb 1968-1976, Basel/Switzerland
Private Collection, 1976-May 1981, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW 1981. Collector wishes to remain anonymous.