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Seated Woman in a Blue Dress (Dora Maar)

Pablo Picasso • Painting, 1939, 73×60 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Surrealism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1939
Size: 73×60 cm
Artwork in selections: 7 selections

Description of the artwork «Seated Woman in a Blue Dress (Dora Maar)»

Written on October 25, 1939 - on the 58th birthday of Pablo Picasso - “Sitting Woman in a Blue Dress” is a searing portrait of the artist’s beloved Dora Maar. The work is filled with a unique character and tension, which distinguish the greatest portraits of this woman created by the painter.

The picture demonstrates all the most exciting characteristic features that were manifested in the work of Picasso during his life with Dora Maar - amazing colors, richly decorated hats and amazing complexity with which the distorted features of the model are conveyed. The greasy, thick strokes of oil that depict the mass of her hair, bewitching Picasso, and the shape of the hat reflect the passion that was raging behind this portrait.

“Sitting woman in a blue dress” is not only distinguished by a bright palette, it is accompanied by an equally exciting story.

The painting originally belonged to Paul Rosenberg, a Picasso dealer, but was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940 - shortly after writing. She was sent to Germany, but on the way the train was intercepted by the forces of the Free France movement. This event formed the basis of the plot of the film "Train" (1964) with Bert Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau in the lead roles.

In reality, one of those who helped to sabotage the Nazis' attempts to remove works of art from France was Alexander Rosenberg - the son of Paul Rosenberg. He joined the Free France movement (later renamed “Fighting France”) after the Nazi invasion in 1940 and was a lieutenant in the Second Armored Division. It was he who commanded a platoon of nine people who stopped the train.

Dora Maar was one of Picasso's most important muses. Their romance began at the end of the artist’s relationship with Maria Theresa Walter. She was a young, athletic blonde with a sunny disposition and a sweet character. During his life with her, Picasso painted smooth, soft and sensual images. Maar, as can be seen from Seated Woman in a Blue Dress, was a complex, restless, and contrasting person. Intelligent and creative, a photographer and an artist on her own, she was a sparring partner for Picasso. By the time they became a couple, she herself had already appeared in surrealist circles.

Picasso often portrayed Maar in hats that she liked, and this feature first distinguishes her from the artist's muses. In “Sitting Woman in a Blue Dress”, the hat is an accessory with a purple strip, decorated with something resembling a green plume or foliage. These hats bring a playful atmosphere to the portraits of Dora by Picasso. They also soften the sharpness with which he represented her face - as is the case with offset and distorted features in this picture.

Some critics find a connection between the images of Dora Maar and the tensions caused by the civil war in Spain and World War II. Whatever the truth of this idea, it seems that Picasso, whose paintings were often a barometer of his state of mind, found a muse that perfectly reflected his experiences at that time.

After World War II, the painting was returned to Paul Rosenberg, who sold it to George David Thompson, a steel tycoon from Pittsburgh (USA). The art critic Alfred Barr called Thompson “one of the great collectors of art of our time” - many works from his former collection adorn the walls of museums in the United States and Europe. In 2011, "Sitting Woman in a Blue Dress" was auctioned and sold for an equivalent of $ 29 million. Six years later, she again went to public auction and went under the hammer for 45 million.

Author: Vlad Maslov (based on Christie's)