Drawing was not only the basis of Giacometti’s entire artistic output but also a means of expression in its own right. As he commented in a letter to his dealer friend Pierre Matisse, he drew tirelessly and copied numerous sculptures: “from early on I drew a lot and painted. Together with drawings made from life or after illustrations, I often copied paintings and reproductions of sculptures.” Jacques Dupin wrote in this connection that Giacometti “by copying what he sees (as his father taught him from early childhood) hopes to give consistency to the reality that escapes him, to learn to see it, to hold on to it, accordingly to assert himself before it.”
The present Reclining Nude from the Back in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, dated 1959, reproduces a classic model in painting, which may refer both to Velázquez’s Toilet of Venus and to Matisse’s nudes. The anatomical curves of the figure are sharply modelled by the hand of a sculptor who wishes to clearly denote the volumes. With the repetition of nervously drawn lines, the artist permanently confines to the paper’s surface the image captured by his gaze. The hint of perspective, using only a few brief strokes, also reveals his intention to create volume and to emphasise that the figure occupies a place in space.