La Toilette is one of the masterpieces painted by Picasso at the height of his career. The painting has evoked mixed feelings in both old and new age art enthusiasts. To Picasso, La Toilette is a perfect depiction of art and romance.
Pablo Picasso painted La Toilette after finally settling to his new life in Paris. While in France, Picasso met one of his mistresses, Fernande Oliver, who later shaped his new artistic style. Picasso was trying to move from his old style of painting that featured a monochromatic blue theme. Using Fernande as his muse, Picasso felt inspired to try red tones. He wanted to give his work an earthy fleshly feel perhaps to better represent his iconic theme of romance and dalliance.
La Toilette portrays two women standing in a red floored room. One is clothed in blue holding a mirror up to the other who is completely in the nude. Even while experimenting with a red sculptural tone in his work, Picasso still could not shy away from the use of blue—hence the use of a blue garment on the lady holding a mirror.
There has been plenty of controversies surrounding the interpretation of La Toilette. Some people argue that the characters portrayed in the painting are two important women who inspired Picasso’s life. The first lady holding the mirror is seen as Jacqueline, Picasso’s last wife who met him at his lowest point in life. The nude lady is seen as Fernande Oliver, Picasso’s first and long-term mistress who was in most of Picasso’s work.
On the other hand, some interpretations argue that La Toilette was a depiction of Fernande and Picasso in the same room. This could be a more accurate verdict since Picasso met Jacqueline towards the end of his life and career. The lady in blue could be Picasso holding up a mirror for his dear beloved Jacqueline. Picasso could have easily painted a man holding the mirror, but his insatiable love for women must have motivated him otherwise.
During his red period, Picasso painted more art inspired by his life in France and later Spain. Examples of red period paintings by Picasso include Family of Saltimbanques, Les Demoiselles, Garcon a la pipe, The Actor, and The Three Dancers.