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« Artistic Drama | Main | A Sad Story… »

Picasso: Muses and Mistresses

Pablo Picasso, Fernande with a Black Mantilla (Fernande à la mantille noir), 1905–06. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Thannhauser Collection, Bequest of Hilde Thannhauser. (click photo for larger image)Pablo Picasso - Weeping Woman - 1937 Oil on canvas - 608 x 500 mm (approx. 24 x 20 in) - Tate Modern - London (click photo for larger image)Fernande Olivier was a French artist and model known primarily for having been the model and lover of painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). She is also known for her written accounts of her relationship with him. Picasso painted over 60 portraits of Fernande. Picasso’s portrait “Fernande with a Black Mantilla” is a transitional work. Still somewhat expressionistic and romantic, with its subdued tonality and lively brushstrokes, the picture depicts his mistress wearing a mantilla, which perhaps symbolizes the artist’s Spanish origins. The iconic stylization of her face and its abbreviated features, however, foretell Picasso’s increasing interest in the abstract qualities and solidity of Iberian sculpture, which would profoundly influence his subsequent works. Though naturalistically delineated, the painting presages his imminent experiments with abstraction. 

Dora Maar (1907-1997) was another of Picasso’s many mistresses. She was 29 when they met. He was 54. Dora was a French photographer, poet and painter, also best known for being a lover and muse of Picasso.  Picasso referred to Dora Maar as a “woman of tears” and used her as a metaphor for the “tears” brought on by the Spanish Civil War. Dora Maar (1907-1997), Picasso's “Weeping Woman”, had seen him through the creation of his masterpiece, “Guernica”, his vivid condemnation of war commissioned for the Spanish Pavilion in the 1937 Universal Exposition in Paris. The work was designed as a protest of the bombing of civilians in Spain. Dora photographed “Guernica” throughout its genesis until it was complete. “Weeping Woman” is a continuation of Guernica--although a more general depiction of suffering.

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