Aubade, 1942 by Pablo Picasso

Acknowledged to be the key work of the period of German Occupation, Aubade is, in fact, a variation on the traditional serenade theme. The subject matter also represents the theme of watchman and sleeper to which Picasso constantly referred. The composition is inspired by Venus of Urbino by Titian. The theme of two women in an interior also evokes Odalisque as a Slave. But here the atmosphere of the harem has disappeared. The horror of war and the claustrophobia of the curfew demand an atmosphere of incarceration and cruelty.

The two women are imprisoned in a closed and sterile room. The dark colours, the blacks, greys and browns are lit by strident violet and green. The angular, sharply defined forms of the female guard with the mandoline, the broken slats of the bed and the corpse-like position of the nude combine to create a sense of tightly strung tension. The empty canvas in the bottom left-hand corner indicates the impossibility of painting an image, and the bird, drawn in profile, in the stomach of the seated woman, represents the hope for freedom which exists in all of us.