Picasso Museum of Barcelona

The Embrace
Signed P. Ruiz Picasso in the bottom left-hand corner
and dedicated a el amigo Bilaró
Paris, 1900
Pastel on paper
59 x 35 cm
Plandiura acquisition, 1932
MPB 4.263

The Work

Amongst the works from the time of his first stay in Paris, and whose theme is the city at night, L'étreinte or The Embrace stands out, based on some drawings Picasso had begun in Barcelona in 1900. Picasso found a more permissive, open environment in Paris and in the area of Montmartre where his studio was located, with public displays of affection also seen openly. The theme of The Embrace is interesting not only socially but also artistically.

To the forefront is a couple, a simple working man and woman, united in an embrace melting them into a single whole. The kiss is in the middle of the street on a dark night. The bodies and faces merge and the arms and hands, lacking anatomical references, envelop the lovers. The expressionist deformation of the bodies is accentuated with intense colours and the marked edges of the figures. Everything takes place as if the couple’s space were isolated from the surrounding, with the urban landscape here serving the theme – a public embrace.

The embrace used as motif has precedents in the Modernist drawings made by the artist in Barcelona between 1899 and 1900, on display at the Museum. Picasso looks at the embrace theme deliberately and in detail; he does not want to be descriptive, but to participate, developing a series of works with the embrace as a main theme. This pastel is very close to the oil painting Lovers in the Street (Zervos, I, 25), also from 1900, since both works represent an embrace with a Montmartre street slope in the background. A pre-cursor would be Munch’s The Kiss, which Picasso could have seen in reproduction, although this pastel is a directly inherited representation of the street scenes of Steinlen, an illustrator and painter whose work Picasso already knew before going to Paris via the reproductions in the book Gil Blas, which was very popular amongst artists in modern Barcelona.


Room 6