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Nude Standing in Profile (Nu debout en profil)

Pablo Picasso

European Art

Pablo Picasso likely based the masklike facial features of this volumetric charcoal nude on Iberian sculptures from about 500–300 B.C.E. that he encountered at the Louvre in the winter of 1905–6. This is an early instance of his finding inspiration in art that was then called “primitive.” The term was used by a range of Western artists and writers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to refer to the arts and peoples of Africa and Oceania, which they contrasted with their own culture’s supposed sophistication. This was a notion embedded with undertones of perceived racial superiority despite Western artists’ admiration for such work.

“Primitive” could characterize any art outside the tradition of European naturalism, encompassing folk art, early Christian art, and ancient art, including Iberian sculpture. The forceful and expressive pictorial language that Picasso saw in such art transformed his own vision. The year after he made this drawing, a similar figure appeared in his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, along with other figures whose faces were inspired by African masks.

Titus Kaphar: I think [it] would be a really amazing performance . . . to bring these characters, these individuals, back to life—Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin—and to actually bring them into this space where their works are, to have them look at their space, enter and stand in front of these pieces and have them come in this moment where all the history we’ve experienced, we’ve seen, and force them to wrestle with it. Ultimately duct tape them, sit them in a chair, put them in a corner, and say, “We don’t want to hear anything you have to say. The one thing we are going to give you is you made beautiful pictures. That’s it. Now shut up and we are going to talk about this ourselves.” I think it’s a little too direct to be great art, but it would be fun to see. It would be really fun to see. I would go to that performance.
MEDIUM Charcoal on laid paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1906
    DIMENSIONS sheet: 21 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (53.7 x 36.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Watermarks in lower left section of sheet: "INGRES"
    SIGNATURE Signed in lower right: "Picasso"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Arthur Wiesenberger
    PROVENANCE Before 1943, provenance not yet documented; before 1943, reportedly acquired by Armand Drouant of Paris, France; before 1943, reportedly acquired by Ernest Brown & Phillips, Ltd. for the Leicester Galleries, London, United Kingdom; by 1943, acquired by Arthur Wiesenberger of New York, NY; 1943, gift of Arthur Wiesenberger to the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). Nude Standing in Profile (Nu debout en profil), 1906. Charcoal on laid paper, sheet: 21 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (53.7 x 36.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Arthur Wiesenberger, 43.178. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 43.178_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 43.178_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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