What was Picasso thinking with this one?
That's a good question. You may already know, that Picasso was a pioneer of Cubism, a movement that was focused on distortion of perspective and reorganizing space and the components of the human figure.
The colors in this particular painting are influenced by the bleakness of World War II Europe. If you look carefully at the face, you can pick out all the normal features, 2 eyes, nose, mouth, and ear, but their arrangement is distorted to present multiple viewpoints at once. Picasso was interested in showing more than what you can get from a photograph or traditional 2-dimensional image.
Tell me more about this.
As you may have guessed, the cubist work is by none other than Pablo Picasso. It was painted in 1942, when he was living in German-occupied Paris. During this time period, Picasso's paintings indirectly relate to his despair with the political situation. Solemn grey paintings and women sobbing were common themes for him during WWII.
He said of his work during the period that: "I have not painted the war, because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer looking for something to depict. But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done."
The grey is so depressing.
This painting by Pablo Picasso was done during World War II, when he was living in a depressing place, German-occupied France. The oppressive and hopeless atmosphere of the war made its way into paintings like this one, which Picasso chose to execute in muted greys.
Can you tell me more about this painting?
This painting by Picasso was painted while he was living in German-occupied Paris during World War II. You can see the despair he felt during the war in his choice of muted greys, a common color palette in his work at the
time. Because he was living in German-occupied territory, Picasso could not make work that was overtly critical of the war. Instead, his color palette, and even paintings of sobbing women, communicated his feelings and his reaction to being restricted artistically.
He said of this period of his work, "I have not painted the war, because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer looking for something to depict. But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done."
Do you know the reason behind putting a Picasso next to this very classic portrait of Anita Ramírez?
They have more in common than you might think! Each of these women can be seen as an allegory for their time and if you look closely, you’ll notice that they are wearing very similar clothing.
Both were also painted in Paris! The portrait of Anita Ramírez in Black captures the spirit of a Spanish cabaret dancer in Paris in 1916. The Picasso, meanwhile, is from 1943, and shows us a much less glamorous, German occupied Paris when Picasso lived there during World War II
The contrast between these two paintings illustrates the rapid developments and broad variations in Western painting in the first half of the 20th century.
From what I understand Picasso began as a representational artist and then shifted to the abstract, at what point was this transition in relation to this piece?
This painting from 1942 would be considered Cubist in style. Picasso first began experimenting with Cubism after meeting fellow artist Georges Braque in 1906. Basically, Picasso’s Cubist style was well established by the time he painted Woman in Gray. Just to clarify, a painting like this is indeed abstracted, but would also be considered representational. It clearly represents the figure of a woman, just not realistically.
What differentiates a synthetic cubism from cubism?
Synthetic Cubism is one of a few different varieties of Cubism, others include Salon Cubism, and Analytic Cubism. Synthetic Cubism was predominantly practiced by Picasso and Georges Braque and is characterized by the introduction of collage elements like newspaper into the composition.
This painting would be more closely aligned with Analytic Cubism which is characterized by an interest in breaking down perspective, and portraying multiple viewpoints at once.
Does this painting represent the bleakness and mourning of the death of their loved one?
Not necessarily the death of a specific loved one, but this is a mournful painting, yes!
It was painted in 1942, while Picasso was living in German-occupied France during the second World war. His paintings from this period relate directly to the despair he felt at the political situation of the time. Solemn grey paintings and weeping women are both common imagery for Picasso during World War II.
Do the curved lines represent femininity?
Picasso painted many disassembled women, some of them more angular than others.
The curves here do create volume and softness that in my eyes communicates something calm, whereas his sharper and more brightly colored paintings of women from this period are often much more turbulent and overtly emotional.
What do the curved and straight edge lines mean?
The lines in this painting are especially harsh which lend a harshness to the work overall. The breakdown of perspective, typical in Cubism, is also especially jarring in this work.
Picasso created this painting during a time of great trauma and stress: he was living in Paris during the Nazi occupation of World War II. Scholars think that the general sense of sorrow and fear around him found its way into his art of those years.
Even though he was painting a woman, on the surface, he's also conveying his own feelings about existence at that moment. Under the circumstances, he couldn't make work that was overly about German occupation or the war, for fear of censorship or punishment, but he could use a traditional portrait format to express his feelings indirectly.
Does this being painted during World War II have anything to do with its color scheme?
Yes indeed! Some of Picasso's paintings of women were quite colorful and filled with curved lines, but this one is all grays and all angles. Scholars think the severe palette reflects his situation (and the wider situation) of that year in Paris.
During the occupation of France by the Nazis starting in 1940, Picasso lived and worked in Paris. He was being watched by the Nazi authorities, but continued to make art.
Like so many people in Paris, he was feeling traumatized and fearful. He couldn't make art that was specifically about the war (for fear of censorship or punishment) but he could convey feelings through his use of color and shape.
Was there a reason painted this lady with a veil?
Veils were a relatively common fashion accessory for women in the 1940s in Europe and the United States. Here it likely serves to add to the somber tone of the painting set in Nazi-occupied Paris.
Is there are meaning to the warm color at the center of the painting? It sharply contrasts with the overall gray and bleak color scheme?
It might! The use of muted tones in Picasso's work at this time was representative of his political situation and his despair. He was working and living in German-Occupied Paris during the second world war, and his negative feelings towards the occupation, as well as the restrictions on him, made their way into his work as a lack of color. The color at the center may also simply represent a flesh tone, a hint of realism in the work.
What do you think the warm tones might suggest?
Perhaps a signal of hope in the midst of despair?
Muchas personas les gustan las pinturas de Pablo Picasso, pero no entiendo por qué es tan popular. Tu sabes?
Fue un pionero del cubismo, un movimiento revolucionario que se centró en la distorsión de la perspectiva y la reorganización del espacio y los componentes de la figura humana.
How long was Picasso in Paris?
Picasso visited Paris many times as a young artist, beginning around 1900, and lived there off-and-on throughout his career.
Picasso did stay in Paris throughout the Second World War (1939-1945) during which he painted this work.
Does the artwork always come with its frame (for example did Picasso intend for this piece to be with this frame) or is it set up with a frame upon arrival to the museum?
My impression is that most often, paintings come to the museum in frames that were added by collectors at some point.
If a painting comes to the museum with no frame we will select a frame that is appropriate to the time period that it was painted.
I believe that this Picasso falls into that first category, that this frame was chosen by a collector after it was painted, but before it came to the museum.
Great. Thank you!