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A series of bizarre erotic beach scenes, including The Kiss, was painted in the summer of 1931 at Picasso's French Riviera vacation resort, Juan-les-Pins. Said to be inspired by the 50-year-old painter's liaison with 19-year-old model, Marie-Therese Walter, the grotesque nature of the depicted forms reduces this moment of intimate contact to a level of crudity, probably more representative of his deteriorating relationship with his wife, Olga.
The praying mantis-like head of the two figures was a popular image with the Surrealists because the perverse concept of the female insect eating her mate after intercourse provided another visual metaphor of the 'life and death' paradox. Here, the heads incorporate Picasso's obscene vagina dentatta teeth imagery, as well as penile tongues.
These gruesome coupled creatures appear washed ashore like sea monsters, furthering notions of primeval protoplasm, the stuff of life. It is as if Picasso is obsessed with the fundamental essense of the sexual act. Bizarrely, these metamorphic shapes are a progression of his monumental neo-Classical figuration of the early 1920s, which were also often set on the beach. Here, the perspective is drawn up close, so that the focus is firmly on the obscenely enlarged shapes.