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By Hubbard, Guy | Arts & Activities, November 2002 | Go to article overview

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Hubbard, Guy, Arts & Activities


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Weeping Woman; 1937. Oil on canvas; 59 cm x 48 cm. Tate Gallery, London.

ABOUT THIS PAINTING

Pablo Picasso was one the most productive and creative artists of the 20th century. He was among the first to recognize the abstract power of African art, its influence being found in his work from almost the beginning of his career. But he didn't cling to any idea for very long before either dramatically modifying it or being inspired by new artistic ideas. And, unlike many artists whose talents diminished as they grew older, Picasso remained creative and full of vigor until he died at the advanced age of 91.

The events of 1937 led to him being surrounded with great bitterness. Several of his friends were experiencing great unhappiness, while the bombing of the small town of Guernica in his Spanish homeland shocked him. Critics have likened his need to express himself about these things to Francisco de Goya's prints showing brutality during the time of Napoleon's conquest of Spain, and scenes from the slaughter of innocent people in Odessa, Russia, in the famous motion picture by Sergei Eisenstein, "The Battleship Potemkin."

Only during 1937 did Picasso explore images of weeping women. This painting is one of almost 60 on this theme. It was also at this time that he drew and painted the dismembered bodies of the victims of the Guernica bombing raid.

This painting of a weeping woman, however, is quite different from his other work on the same theme done during this period. In particular, the colors are unusually bright and bold for Picasso--especially in a picture devoted to grief and unhappiness. People are more likely to think of colors that are dull for subjects like this one and that is true of Picasso's other paintings and drawings of weeping women. But not this one.

The result is a kind of contradiction that adds shock to the painting. The brilliant colors make us think that the woman was happy and confident until the moment she received some tragic news. It was this moment that Picasso captured with paint.

Equally unusual for Picasso, the woman is wearing a fashionably designed hat and carefully brushed hair as though she had just been to the city either shopping or visiting friends. Picasso rarely dressed his models in normal, everyday clothing. …

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