Pablo Picasso, Seated nude and head of a woman, a preparatory study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, bodycolour and watercolour

Around AD 1906-7

This study by Picasso (1881-1973), probably executed in the winter of 1906-7, was one of many leading up to his famous painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York). The composition as a whole was conceived as a brothel scene with the more explicit title of Le Bordel d'Avignon provided by the artist himself, referring to the Carrer d'Avinyó (Avignon), a street in Barcelona. Originally it contained both male and female figures but in the form in which Picasso left the painting in the summer of 1907, there were just five women; this drawing relates to the second figure from the left. The simplified oval of the head, particularly in the study on the right of the sheet, reflects the generalized features of Fernande Olivier, Picasso's mistress at the time, but also the influence of ancient Iberian sculpture which he saw at the Louvre from the spring of 1906 onwards.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was the most difficult and revolutionary work of Picasso's career, and it profoundly disconcerted even his supporters when it was first exhibited in 1916. 'It was the most unequivocally twentieth-century masterpiece, a principal detonator of the modern movement, the cornerstone of modern art.' (John Richardson, Life of Picasso, vol. II)

This drawing formerly hung at the Château de Castille in the south of France, the home of Douglas Cooper (1911-84), the art historian and collector who was a close friend of Picasso.

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Pablo Picasso, Seated nude and head of a woman, a preparatory study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, bodycolour an

© 2001 Succession Picasso / DACS


More information


F. Carey, 'Major drawing by Picasso', British Museum Magazine: th-11, 25 (Summer 1996), p. 24

W. Rubin, Picasso in the collection of t (New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1972)

J. Richardson, A life of Picasso, vol. I, 1881-1906 (London, Cape, 1991)

J. Richardson, A life of Picasso-1, vol. 2, 1907-17 (London, Cape, 1996)

, Les demoiselles dAvignon, exh. cat. (Paris, Musée Picasso, 1988)


Height: 626 mm
Width: 460 mm

Museum number

PD 1996-2-16-3


Purchased with the assistance of
The Art Fund


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