For more than two years, from August, 1959, to September, 1961, Picasso worked on this series of paintings, which consists of twenty-seven paintings and many drawings. Once again he found an opportunity to take up a number of his favorite themes.
Manet's composition, showing two nudes with two clothed men in a landscape, is itself a kind of variation. Almost exactly 100 years before Picasso treated this theme, Manet, building on a theme taken from an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, attempted to translate Giorgione's Concert champetre (in The Louvre) into a contemporary idiom. The Arcadian figures in the work of the great Venetian painter were transformed by Manet into Parisians of his own day, and Arcadia itself took on a new, contemporary form just outside the gates of Paris.
Picasso's variations are of an entirely different kind: he takes Manet's composition as a sort of springboard for his own imagination, which carries him into new, as yet unsuspected directions.
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