A couple of weeks ago I went to the Bibliotheque Nationale in-between services on a Sunday, and spent my time looking at art books. In a volume of Picasso's drawings I was captivated by several drawings from 1968 titled "A la piscine" - "At the Pool," and took a few not-very-good pictures with my phone -- all I had with me at the time.
Later, at home, I began looking for source material, because the arches in the background and languid poses of the women seemed much more like a Turkish bath than a swimming pool. Not at all to my surprise, I discovered that Picasso had a long obsession with this subject.
Here's a drawing from November 1, 1968. The source, of course, is Ingres' "Orientalist" painting, below:
But Picasso, naturally, puts his own touch on it as he explores the subject and his own psyche. Eventually he did a whole series of drawings and etchings titled "Le Bain Turc."
This one is from February, 1968: I love the whispering women at the top, the standing woman (so much sexier half-undressed and looking out of the frame at the artist/us), the "odalisque" in the foreground - a clear nod to both Ingres' La Grande Odalisque and Manet's "Olympia"- (and what's she holding? a mirror? a fruit? and in her other hand, are those brushes?) and, as in the top drawing in this post, that earnest swimmer in the pool, wearing her bathing cap, oblivious to the others and determined to do her laps!
It's fascinating in all of these works (there are many more) to see the shorthand with which he indicates the structure and fittings of the hammam, and the casual poses of the bathers. As in many of his graphic works, one face or body may be worked in detail while others are barely indicated, and there is always a lot of distortion as well as multiple perspectives which our eyes somehow ignore, but which give great life to the complex scenes. Below, an etching from 1971: clearly he was still at it three years later. Look what's happened to the swimmers, and the lute player, and the woman with the mirror.
I sigh in admiration!