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Weeping Woman 1937 Painting by Pablo Picasso

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Weeping Woman 1937 Oil Painting
Keywords: Weeping Art   Woman Painting   1937 Works  

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Weeping Woman 1937 - Picasso Paintings for Sale

The Weeping Woman
The Weeping Woman in the Tate collection
Artist Pablo Picasso
Year 1937
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 60 cm × 49 cm (23 ⅝ in × 19 ¼ in)
Location Tate Modern, London

The Weeping Woman, (60 х 49 cm, 23 ⅝ х 19 ¼ inches) is an oil on canvas painted by Pablo Picasso in France in 1937. Picasso was intrigued with the subject, and revisited the theme numerous times that year.[1] This painting was the final and most elaborate of the series. It has been in the collection of the Tate in London since 1987, and is on exhibition at the Tate Modern, London.

Dora Maar was Picasso's mistress from 1936 until 1944. In the course of their relationship, Picasso painted her in a number of guises, some realistic, some benign, others tortured or threatening.[2] Picasso explained:

"For me she's the weeping woman. For years I've painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one."[3]

"Dora, for me, was always a weeping woman....And it's important, because women are suffering machines."

The Weeping Woman in the Tate Gallery was the last of a series of paintings by Picasso depicting this subject. One of the earlier versions was stolen from the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia in August 1986, and discovered in a railway station locker in Melbourne later the same month. The thieves' demands included an increase to arts funding.

One of the worst atrocities of the Spanish Civil War was the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German air force, lending their support to the Nationalist forces of General Franco. Picasso responded to the massacre by painting the vast mural Guernica, and for months afterwards he made subsidiary paintings based on one of the figures in the mural: a weeping woman holding her dead child. Weeping Woman is the last and most elaborate of the series. The woman’s features are based on Picasso’s lover Dora Maar.

The principal recurring image amongst the postscripts is that of the weeping woman. The image derives from the screaming mother who holds her dead child and vainly attempts to escape from the Guernica nightmare at the extreme left of the painting. Picasso made many studies for this figure, who, right from the very beginning, was one of the principal figures in the total drama. She was the focus of pain and human suffering amidst the symbols of rearing horse and bull. The proximity in Picasso’s mind of the two images – the mother of the dead child and the weeping woman – can be gauged by two oil sketches dated by Zervos to the same day, 22 June (Ζ IX 49, 50). That first sketch of the weeping woman introduced the motif of the handkerchief. The date of the sketches – late June, when Guernica must have been almost entirely finished – confirms the view that these postscripts have an intimate connection with the great painting itself. They came unbidden, in the same moment of agonised inspiration. The shift in the images from painting to postscript is a shift from being a participant in the holocaust of Guernica to a witness of that drama. The screaming mother becomes the weeping woman. Both the link between them and the transformation of feeling from agony to grief, is what sustains the power and presence of the Weeping woman. The painting is without a vestige of sentimentality because it belongs to and witnesses a tragedy of modern history.

Picasso etched the subject the following month after Guernica had been placed on public view and the etched image naturally reversed the head of the woman so that she now looks to the right. This was to become the composition Picasso used in October 1937 when he produced the three independent oil paintings of the Weeping woman3, which include the Melbourne work (fig. 1). The version now in the Musée Picasso (fig. 2) is the sketchiest of the three and in its direct graphic quality recalls the sketches and the earliest postscripts to Guernica. It marks Picasso’s return to the difficult subject which had so troubled, exercised and inspired him during the middle months of 1937.

The most celebrated and elaborate painting of the three is undoubtedly that owned by the late Sir Roland Penrose (fig. 3) and on loan to the Tate Gallery in London for many years. The addition of a hat with a flower and the brilliant blue and red colour chords of this work took the image away from the austere monochrome world of Guernica. The fall of the woman’s hair, the rhythmically striated pattern, added a further ‘portrait-like’ dimension to the image.

The Melbourne version stands between these two. Less elaborate than the Penrose painting, without the hat or the complex passages of fingers, it is more fully worked than the Paris sketch. The Gallery’s work retains something of the immediacy of direct painting as much the product of the brush as of deliberate construction, but it lacks the careful orchestration and schematisation of the Penrose version. The ‘portrait’ qualities are certainly present in the Melbourne painting, and the acidic green/purple colour proposition gives it a cutting edge conceding nothing to conventional taste.

The Melbourne Weeping woman has a subtle but important difference in its overall composition. The figure is firmly disposed in an interior setting. The narrow grey space against which the weeping woman throws an intense black shadow contributes a sense of claustrophobia to the painting and recalls the pent-up spaces of Guernica itself where so much turmoil goes on in a confined and ambiguous space. The weeping woman is literally and metaphorically shut in on her own grief. Of the three October 1937 versions, the Gallery’s Weeping woman stands closest to the expressive origins of the trio.

The weeping woman is, however, a witness to Guernica and not a participant. She responds in imagination with inconsolable grief to the terrible acts of the drama. Earlier I mentioned the ‘portrait-like’ quality of the Melbourne and Penrose versions. They both possess a particularity the more generalised head of the screaming woman in Guernica and its sketches lack. Weeping woman unmistakably shows Picasso moving towards the Dora Maar series of portraits and figures which were to dominate his art through 1938 and into the early war years once she had become his mistress and replaced Marie-Thérèse Walter.4 Where Marie-Thérèse had been for Picasso the embodiment of the statuesque idol, both sensual and classicising; Dora Maar was the focus of apprehension, sensibility and feeling. She was herself an artist, a photographer and in that role had been the first ‘witness’ of Guernica as she photographed its dramatic succession of states during its creation. Sensitive and highly-strung, she was no doubt profoundly moved by the evolving work as Picasso explored and elaborated on the Spanish tragedy during those fateful weeks in May and June 1937. If she was the first witness to Guernica, how appropriate and how typical of Picasso that he would transform her first responses to the work into the lasting form of the Weeping woman. The historical and universal tragedy of Guernica became personal and particular in the Weeping woman.
-- Patrick McCaughey


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