Pablo Picasso produced over thirty portraits of Carlos Casagemas during his career. He first met Casagemas at the famous Els Quatre Gats café in Barcelona. Catalan for The Four Cats, this popular artists' meeting place was open from 1897 until 1903. Despite its short life, it left a substantial mark on the modernist period in Catalonia. The café was restored in the 1970s following the death of General Franco and reopened in 1978.
Casagemas became a constant companion to Picasso during his formative years in Barcelona and the pair went to Paris together in 1900. This was Picasso’s first visit to the city where he would spend much of his adult life. In February the following year, Casagemas committed suicide in the Parisian café L'Hippodrome. The twenty-year-old attempted to shoot Germaine Gargallo, his unrequited love, before turning the gun on himself. Gargallo went on to marry Ramón Pichot, another of Picasso's artist friends, in 1902.
The death of his close friend had a dramatic effect on the young Picasso. His posthumous paintings of Casagemas show the direction of his career at the time. La Mort de Casagemas from the summer of 1901 retains the colour of his earlier work. Later in the year, the darker shades of Casagemas in His Coffin marked the start of his Blue Period. He said afterwards, "I started painting in blue when I learned of Casagemas's death." This part of Picasso's career began as the artist fell into depression and continued until 1904. His painting at the time was characterised by sombre works in monochromatic blue or green. Picasso was a frequent visitor to Saint-Lazare Hospital where he would observe the sick. The major work of this period, 1903’s La Vie, also features Casagemas.
Picasso produced this Portrait of Nude Casagemas in 1904 at the start of his Rose Period. This period, which lasted from 1904 until 1907, marked the artist's return to vivid colours and more cheerful subjects. The portrait is in ink on paper and measures 13cm by 9cm.