During World War I (1914–18) Raymond Duchamp-Villon contracted typhoid fever and spent a year in a military hospital. The subject of this work, Professor Gosset, was one of the surgeons that attended to him. About its creation, Duchamp-Villon wrote to his friend, artist Walter Pach (American, 1883–1958), “It still needs to be made definitive and I am planning to do this during the weeks of convalescence. Everything is a great effort to me.” This was to be his last work of art, and the artist died soon after its completion. His brother Jacques Villon authorized the posthumous bronze casts of the initial sculpture, which was modeled with clay pellets. The work’s almost sinister and masklike qualities are perhaps not indicative of the subject’s persona but, instead, a premonition by the artist of his own death.
Label from Picasso: The Artist and His Models, November 5, 2016–February 19, 2017