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Crying woman

Painting, 1937, 61×50 cm

Description of the artwork «Crying woman»

Pablo Picasso, arguably the greatest of the 20th century, is best known for two reasons. Firstly, for the invention - together withGeorges Braque - Cubism and collage, and secondly, for its anti-war stance, expressed in various works of art. Both of these points are combined in "The Crying Woman" - one of the most famous portraits of Picasso, made in the style of analytical cubism, but with more realism than usual.

This painting is a landmark example of Spanish painting. She continues the anti-war theme that the artist began in his epic work “Guernica” (1937), which became his reaction to the bombing of civilians during the Spanish Civil War. Having completed the painting, Picasso for many months created a series of images of crying women, the prototype of which was one of the figures in Guernica. The “Crying Woman” from the Tate Gallery is the last and most difficult of this cycle. Others are kept at major institutions such as the Victoria National Gallery in Melbourne, the Picasso Museum in Paris, the Los Angeles County Center for the Arts, and others.

The model for the entire series of “Crying Women” was the stunningly beautiful professional photographer Dora Maar (née Henrietta Theodora Markovich), who was one of the leading surrealists in the 1930s. Having met with Picasso in Paris in 1936, she became his mistress, muse and intellectual companion. Being a strong personality, she played an important role in the formation of the political views of Picasso, and he painted it dozens of times during their relationship from 1938 to 1945. Maar also wrote some minor details in Guernica, but her series of photographs documenting the successive stages of the mural painting in the Picasso workshop on Gran Augustin Street in 1937 is best known.

“The Crying Woman” portrays a painfully weeping heroine, who presses a handkerchief to her face in an attempt to stop the tears flowing profusely. This universal image of suffering is written in the style of early analytical cubism. It is characterized by the use of angular and overlapping fragments of the model’s face, as if it were drawn from different points of view at the same time. To emphasize the two-dimensional nature of the work, Picasso makes no attempt to create “depth” in the picture using a linear perspective or any modeling / shading like chiaroscuro.

Picasso explained the distortions and deformations with which he subjected Dora's face: “For me, she is a crying woman. For many years I wrote it in distorted forms not out of sadism or pleasure, but simply obeying the vision that was imposed on me. It was a deep, not a superficial reality ... Women suffer from cars. ”

The most obvious meaning of “Crying Woman” is quite simple, given the ongoing civil war in Spain. Strictly dressed as for a funeral, she expresses the heartbreaking grief experienced by mothers, sisters and other loved ones after the death of a loved one - especially during the war. As in Guernica, the focus is on the pain and suffering that innocent people experience. A key element of all the paintings in the cycle is the expressive expression of female eyes. Invariably wide open, they symbolize the strength of her grief.

There is another - more subtle - interpretation of the work. Some art historians believe that it is a self-portrait, revealing the inner torment of the artist at the thought of his native country, torn by civil war. Picasso was extremely depressed by the conflict and vowed never to return to Spain while Franco remained in power. The general survived the artist for two years.

A “crying woman" can also be viewed in a religious manner. For example, it can symbolize pieta - the torment of the Virgin Mary, mourning the terrible death of her son Jesus. On the hand of the trampled body under the horse in the “Guernica” there are signs of the stigmata of Christ, indicating martyrdom, so that this canvas may contain religious references.

But the color scheme used in the picture remains a mystery. Demonstrating pain and suffering, Picasso often used a monochrome palette or even grisaille. But Crying Woman has all the basic colors, including red, yellow, blue, as well as orange, green, and brown. Did the artist try to fill his heroine with strong feelings or a sense of life? Did he try to contrast this portrait with the black-gray gamut of Guernica? There is no consensus on this issue.

Author: Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Cubism, Surrealism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1937

Size: 61×50 cm

Artwork in selections: 25 selections