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Picasso first encountered Marie-Thérèse Walter in January 1927. He kept their relationship secret for many years, even from some of his closest friends, but particularly from his wife Olga. In 1931-2 he embarked on a series of sculptures and paintings of Marie-Thérèse, made at his studio in the Chateau de Boisgeloup, which he had purchased in 1930. Picasso’s habit of dating his work very precisely makes it possible to trace the development of this sequence as Picasso discovered an increasingly complex manipulation of her body. Made on 8 March 1932, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is the most intense among the group of large nudes, counterpointing the real head with a sculpted head, and the folds of Marie-Thérèse’s body with the luxuriant forms of a philodendron plant. The setting includes a secretive curtain against which the sculptural bust casts a double shadow, as if the white of the foreground nude was literally illuminating the space.

June 2011