La Toilette, 1906
Oil on canvas
59 1/2 x 39 inches (151.1 x 99.1 cm)
Fellows for Life Fund, 1926
On View in the 1962 Knox Building
When Pablo Picasso moved to Paris in 1904, he rented a studio in the bohemian neighborhood of Montparnasse. The building was called the Bateau Lavoir—it was spare and rough, but inexpensive. One day in the fall of 1904 when he was getting water from the single faucet in the basement, he met a young woman named Fernande Olivier. Even though they were only together until 1912, more than fifty years later she recalled that for some time she could not face what she called the fire in his eyes.
Fernande was the model for La Toilette, which reflects Picasso's view of the two different sides of her personality. One of the figures is nude and standing comfortably in a very open pose looking in a mirror, which implies vanity, while her more modest counterpart is fully clothed and standing quietly in profile holding the mirror. The figure on the left is represented in pinkish tones, associated with warmth, while the other is dressed primarily in cool blues.
The two figures also represent different influences on Picasso's painting at the time. The nude figure, both in pose and body type, reflects ancient Roman sculpture, which was often idealized. The other figure refers more to ancient Egyptian tomb painting, both in her pose and in the fact that she is clothed. The shallow space the figures inhabit reflect both Roman and Egyptian cultures.
Related Lesson Plan
Double Vision (For Grades 9–12)
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