Standing Nude Woman (Mademoiselle Léonie)

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In the early 20th century, Picasso made a series of remarkable figure drawings. The earliest date from 1906 and early 1907, when he took the momentous decision to turn away from the descriptive language of the Renaissance to seek instead a more ‘primitive’ manner of visual expression. These were followed by sheets from late 1907 and 1908 in which he used geometric faceting. Studies from 1910 document his revolutionary assault on the body, shattering its solid mass into an array of free-floating planes, cones and cylinders. In 1911–12, the shattered figure was absorbed into the scaffolding of the ‘grid’, the new pictorial structure that Picasso and Georges Braque, his partner in the invention of Cubism, created as a replacement for Renaissance perspective. In 1912–13, Picasso dramatically clarified Cubism, reducing its complex structures to a handful of overlapping planes and replacing straight lines and angles with seemingly naïve curves.

The image of Mademoiselle Léonie as a standing nude provided the point of departure for a series of drawings and a canvas painted in the fall of 1910. In Standing Nude Woman (Mademoiselle Léonie) Picasso dispensed with his customary pencil underdrawing and executed the study directly in ink on paper. Several key elements appear throughout the series: the nose is drawn as a triangle; the shoulder on the left is a large semi-circular form resembling a slice of melon, punctuated by a small upturned spike that may represent the point of a collar or the tip of a neck, while the shoulder on the right is drawn, in a completely different fashion, as a rising triangle. The hip on the right is represented as an open cone or cylinder, with the shaded, right edge of the torso descending into it. In 1910–12, Picasso typically used such curved forms to represent anatomical joints: the place where one limb rotates around its juncture with another limb. Finally, it should be noted that the figure is silhouetted against empty space, with no suggestion of a surrounding grid.

Text: After Pepe Karmel, ‘Body Language: The Human Figure in Picasso’s Drawings, 1906–1913’, in Dialogues with Picasso: Collection 2020–2023, Málaga, Fundación Museo Picasso Málaga, Legado Paul, Christine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, 2020, p. 81.


What was happening in 1910?

  • Picasso is in his Analytical Cubist period, dividing his time between Barcelona and Paris.
  • The Seine floods Paris, seriously affecting thousands of people.
  • The painter Henri Rousseau dies.
  • In Spain, the anarcho-syndicalist workers’ union CNT (National Confederation of Labour) is founded.

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Picasso's Universe