The Embrace

L’étreinte

It was during a visit to Barcelona that Picasso produced the large pastel in the Musée de l’Orangerie entitled The Embrace. With dimensions not usually seen in Picasso’s pastels, it depicts a nude man and woman embracing in a bedroom painted in shades of blue and pink. Although we cannot distinguish the faces of these two figures, it is evident that the woman is expecting a child. This very tender scene is not, however, free from the deep melancholy that runs through the whole of Picasso’s Blue Period, which started in 1901. Picasso is said to have remarked of The Embrace: "What I want is that my picture should evoke nothing but emotion." The embrace is a recurrent theme in Picasso’s work from 1900 on, particularly in scenes of life in Montmartre. It is one of the major pieces in the Walter-Guillaume collection. The dealer and collector Paul Guillaume acquired it in 1930, the work having previously belonged to the famous art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939). We also know of drafts for this composition produced in the same year, rapid sketches now in the Musée National Picasso (MP 849-851), and of two similar compositions in stumped graphite pencil (MP 474), as well as a gouache on paper in a private collection. The theme of the embrace was a major inspiration for artists throughout Europe at the turn of the century. It can be seen in the work of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, among others.

Provenance: Ambroise Vollard, Paris; Paul Guillaume (1930); Domenica Walter

(1) Pierre Cabanne, Le siècle de Picasso, Denoël, Paris, 1979, vol.1, p. 171