Picasso made his first visit to Paris in the fall of 1900. This work depicting the French cancan dance was created during this short stay in Paris. It shows the marked influence of Lautrec, employing a configuration which reverses that of Lautrec’s poster Mademoiselle Eglantine’s Troupe.
Under the influence of the artists of fin-de-siècle Barcelona, and owing also to the shock of a friend’s death and other circumstances, the young Picasso went through a period lasting from 1901 to 1904 in which he painted themes symbolizing the tragic nature of human existence in various shades of blue. In this work, the backs of two women slouched together in a dingy bar are incised by deep shadows that seem to represent the heavy burdens of humankind.
At critical junctures throughout Picasso’s life, women always appeared who served as “muses” for him and became close to him. In 1908, he went back to Spain in the company of Fernande Olivier, an art student he had met in Paris, and they stayed four months in Horta de Ebro. Here Picasso embarked on analytical cubism with Fernande as his model, breaking her figure down into faceted forms which he then recomposed.
Picasso had his first child, Paul, with his wife Olga when he had reached the age of 40. He expressed his joy in the form of numerous maternity pictures, and has also left us some affectionate portraits that, as it were, watch over the boy’s growing infancy. This picture references the “good shepherd” icon deriving from Christianity, perhaps out of a wish that the boy should become a man who could save straying souls.