Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Tête de femme

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête de femme
signed 'Picasso' (upper right)
oil on canvas
14¾ x 11 5/8 in. (37.5 x 29.5 cm.)
Painted in Barcelona, summer 1903
Guillaume and Jacqueline Apollinaire, Paris.
By descent from the above to the present owner, 1967.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, no. 205 (illustrated, pl. 92).
A. Cirici-Pelicier, Picasso antes de Picasso, Barcelona, 1946, no. 183 (illustrated, no. 182).
D. Sutton, Picasso, peintures, époques bleue et rose, Paris, 1955, no. 12 (illustrated).
P. Cailler, Guillaume Apollinaire, Geneva, 1965, no. 107.
P. Daix and G. Boudaille, Picasso, the Blue and Rose Periods: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1900-1906, London, 1967, p. 224, no. IX.17 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
P. Daix and P. Lecaldano, Tout l'oeuvre de Picasso, périodes bleue et rose, Paris, 1980.
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: The Early Years, 1881-1907, Barcelona, 1980, p. 542, no. 902 (illustrated, p. 348).

Lot Essay

Painted in Barcelona during the summer of 1903, the present work effuses the somber and meditative qualities so associated with Picasso's work at the height of his Blue period. Picasso's work at this time expressed psychological turmoil - most often that of the beggars and prostitutes whom he used as his subjects. As an avant-garde artist living in a bourgeois society in search of social meaning in his art, Picasso's images of the disenchanted and marginalized outcasts were his attempt to ascribe social meaning in his work. In discussing the political and social elements present at the turn of the century in Barcelona, Professor Robert Lubar has commented:

...Picasso's work is implicated in a bourgeois politics of leftist republicanism that attempted to redress the social question within the framework of dominant class initiatives. In this light Picasso's self-reflexive figures are immobilized by the weight of their own inertia, oppressed members of the 'passive class' whose voice of protest has been effectively silenced. But they also express the artist's own refusal to be coopted by republican Catalanism. Self-absorbed and socially isolated, backs often turned to the viewer, these mute figures resist incorporation into the politics of bourgeois reform. Far more than metaphors for Picasso's own experience of marginalization as a bohemian artist, they are poignant signs of contradiction and withdrawl. (R. Lubar, "Barcelona Blues", in Picasso, The Early Years, 1892-1906, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 97)

Stylistically, Picasso admired French symbolists such as Odilon Redon, Maurice Denis, and Puvis de Chavannes. Following this symbolist tradition, Picasso used color to convey emotional qualities in his paintings. In the present work, the monochrome palette distills the quiet spirituality of the sitter into a mystical aura. Her eyes closed and set against and atmospheric background, Picasso embued Tête de femme with a timeless quality that speaks of the depth of humanity. With the absence of an external gaze, the present work suggests eternal stillness, transcending the earthly into the spiritual.

The first owner of this work was Wilhelm de Krostrowiztky, a brilliant poet of half-Italian half-Polish descent who adopted France as his homeland and renamed himself Guillaume Apollinaire. Picasso always had a great bias toward the literary world, and in 1904 met Apollinaire. This early encounter was the beginning of an epochal friendship between the two men, Max Jacob and other painters and poets who were to collaborate and influence each other for years to come. Picasso and Apollinaire's friendship ensued until the poet's death in 1918.

(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, 1904.
Musée Picasso, Paris.

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