Jasper Johns, Faceplanting Nude

Jasper Johns, After Picasso, 1998, 34 1/2 x 28 1/2 in., collection of the artist, via Skarstedt

So Cy Twombly wasn’t the only one making his own Picassos. In late 1998, while in St Maarten and in the middle of his Catenary series, Jasper Johns decided to make a copy of Picasso’s Reclining Nude (1938), which he’d seen in ARTnews.

Pablo Picasso, [Actually] Reclining Nude, 1938, ex-collection Marina Picasso/Jan Krugier

The painting belonged to Picasso’s granddaughter Marina, and illustrated an April 1998 profile of Jan Krugier, the Geneva dealer with exclusive rights to sell her collection. It was apparently printed upsidedown. Unless Johns took his year’s worth of unread ARTnewses to the beach with him, maybe it was the correction in a later issue that caught his interest.

Johns lives with the work and loves it, he told interviewer Marco Livingstone in 2000: “I love to look at it, and I’m very happy that I have it to look at. In a sense I have the feeling that much of what’s interesting about it is not willed, but is innate to the structure of the man who made it, and there’s no way to replicate it in oneself. One can only admire it in the other person, or hate it if you happen to hate it!”

That quote was cited in the 2001 dissertation of Joachim Pissaro, who just curated Johns’ Picasso into a show at Skarstedt at the moment. But it’s not the first time the work has been shown; it definitely gets around. It made the rounds in 2006-7 in Picasso and American Art, organized by the Whitney; and it was in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg’s 2015 show Picasso and Contemporary Art, which was restaged at the Wexner.

Untitled, 2017, 50x60cm, acrylic over etching with collage on canvas, via Matthew Marks

And when it came home, it found its way into the thick of Johns’ work. An untitled 2017 painting and etching collaged on canvas rotates and adapts the reclining nude to the contour of Johns’ profile/vase motif. It seems clear from the figure’s amorphous lower half that Johns was looking at, or referring to, his own cropped copy, and not Picasso’s original [or a reproduction of it.]

Johns showed this and other new works at Matthew Marks in 2019, which Johns whisperer John Yau wrote about for Hyperallergic. While surfing around trying to confirm the right orientation for the Picasso, I found another Picasso whose resonance intrigues me.

Silhouette of Picasso and a Young Girl Crying, 1928-29, Collection Musée Picasso

This 1928-29 painting of Picasso’s silhouette and a young girl crying was published on the facing page of a 2008 coffee table art book by Michele Dantini. Which is not a source I’d imagine Johns using, of course, but the painting IS in the Musée Picasso. And that crying woman’s biomorphic head does look a lot like the late Picasso Tête de Femme Johns was quoting in his Stony Point works in the late 1980s, like the one the Hirshhorn acquired in 1988.

Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1987, acquired by the Hirshhorn in 1988