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

La femme qui pleure, I

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
La femme qui pleure, I
etching, aquatint, drypoint and scraper, 1937, on Montval paper, a fine impression of this extremely rare and important subject, Baer's third state of seven, signed in pencil, numbered 8/15, framed
Image size: 27 1/8 x 19 3/8 in. (689 x 492 mm.)
Sheet size: 30 3/8 x 22 in. (772 x 560 mm.)
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso, Paris (by descent from the above).
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 29 May 1998.
G. Bloch, Picasso: catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié, 1904-1967, Bern, 1971, vol. I, p. 288, no. 1333 (another example from the edition illustrated).
B. Baer, Picasso, peintre-graveur: catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et des monotypes, 1935-1945, Bern, 1986, vol. III, pp. 118 and 120-121, no. 623 (another example from the edition illustrated, p. 120).
J. Freeman, Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse Walter & Dora Maar, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994, p. 91 (another example illustrated, p. 94, fig. 59).
B. Baer, Picasso, peintre-graveur: addendum au catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et des monotypes, 1899-1972, Bern, 1996, p. 39, no. 623 (another example from the edition illustrated).

Lot Essay

Picasso created not one, but two famously iconic images during May-July 1937, as he reacted to news coming out of the murderous Civil War in Spain. The first is the painting Guernica, unveiled at the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 World Exposition in Paris. Picasso, a life-long pacifist, intended that this overpowering statement demonstrate in a most public forum his shock and outrage at the total destruction that the German and Italian air forces--acting for General Franco's fascist insurrection--had rained down on the ancient, defenseless Basque town of Guernica, and to affirm his support for the legitimate Republican (Loyalist) government in Madrid. The second image, conceived on a far more intimate scale, is La femme qui pleure, I, offered here, which no less significantly reveals a concurrent dimension of profound private feeling in Picasso's work, where he has most grippingly portrayed a woman caught up in paroxysms of deepest sorrow.

Both these masterpieces wear in their imagery aspects of one or the other of Picasso's two mistresses, whose contending, complementary qualities inspired and galvanized his creative efforts during this period. Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom Picasso met in 1927 and in 1935 became the mother of their daughter Maya, appears in multiple guises in Guernica. "Picasso had no hesitation in using Marie-Thérèse's image as the incarnation of peace and innocence at the mercy of the forces of evil in this supreme indictment of war as well as of totalitarianism," John Richardson has written. Dora Maar had since the summer of 1936 become Marie-Thérèse's rival for the artist's love and attention; Picasso managed the affections of both women to his advantage. "Dora largely inspired the Weeping Woman paintings," Richardson has stated, and while Picasso worked on both ideas concurrently and inter-relatedly, the author has cautioned us to view the Weeping Women as "a separate series that should not be identified too closely with Guernica" (L'Amour Fou: Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2011, pp. 45-46).

In early 1937 Picasso considered the idea of an artist and model theme for his Spanish Pavilion mural, but the bombing of Guernica on Sunday 26 April, killing more than 1,600 of the town's 7,000 inhabitants, immediately convinced him of the subject he must paint. Within days he created his first studies, showing the horse and bull. He then drew on 10 May a woman with her head raised to the sky, her mouth agape, looking away in horror from the lifeless infant in her arms. The first studies of a weeping woman, with tears dangling on threadlike tracks from darkened eyes, emerged on 24 May (Zervos, vol. 9, nos. 31 and 33); Picasso was alluding to the precedent of the mater dolorosa--Mary weeping for her crucified son, and by inference, for all humankind--a potent theme in Baroque Spanish religious art. The most intense of all the Guernica studies are those weeping women Picasso drew between 28 May and 3 June (Zervos, vol. 9, nos. 35, 39, 40, 41 and 44 [the latter, fig. 1]; all the preceding, like Guernica, in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid).

The Weeping Woman, however, did not ultimately appear in Guernica. The closest Picasso came to inserting some aspect of her is visible in Dora's photographs which document the mural in progress during late May; the "Marie-Thérèse" profile of the leaning woman at lower right shows two tears on her cheek, which the artist subsequently removed. Drawing on newspaper photographs, press reports and newsreels, Picasso wanted to describe in his mural the sudden, unprecedented shock of total war to which the civilian population of Guernica had fallen victim. The riveting presence of the Weeping Woman, Picasso decided, would upstage the ensemble effect to which the four women in the painting contribute their fearful and agonized expressions, and distract attention from the primal, mythic symbolism of the horse and bull. Picasso intended Guernica to depict the stunned victims' immediate response to the actual moments of destruction--tears of grief and lamentation would come later, together with the handkerchief to dry one's eyes. The weeping Dora is both victim and witness, like the chorus which responds to the horrors that take place on stage in a Greek tragedy. She is moreover a universal figure not attached to any single event nor even to her cataclysmic century as a whole--she is the timelessly universal messenger of unfathomable and inconsolable human sorrow, the bearer of an elemental emotion that is as miraculously and beautifully human to contemplate as it is disturbing to behold.

Picasso etched the seven states of La femme qui pleure, I on 1 July, three days before completing his mural. The image first appears in all its stark clarity in the present third state, which, together with the final seventh state (fig. 2), were the only two Picasso decided to sign and number in a published edition of fifteen impressions each. There are three other etched versions of La femme qui pleure. II (Baer, no. 624) is a similarly sized image rudimentarily rendered in dry point on a copper plate 1 July 1937 (1st state). Around 1946, Picasso turned this image upside down, and executed over it an aquatint showing a frontal visage of Françoise Gilot (2nd state). III and IV (Baer, nos. 625 and 626) are variants of the image I etched on sheets approximately half the size; in IV the profile faces left.

Picasso, however, was not done with the Weeping Woman. "The one motif he could not relinquish," Judi Freeman has stated, "was that of the weeping woman. Her visage haunted him. He drew her frequently, almost obsessively, for the next several months. She was the metaphor for his private agonies" (exh. cat., op. cit., 1994, p. 61). Picasso executed the next series of nearly a dozen drawings of the Weeping Woman, with four oil paintings, between 8 June and 6 July (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 54; fig. 3), before taking his summer holiday in Mougins with Dora and their friends. He resumed the weeping women in October, culminating in the well-known oil version Femme en pleurs, dated 26 October 1937 (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 73; fig. 4) which Roland Penrose purchased from Picasso in November. Among Picasso's final paintings of 1937 is La Suppliante, dated 18 December (Musée Picasso, Paris); tearless but imploring, her eyes and arms raised to the sky, she is a final echo of the horrified mother in Guernica.

Dora would remain Picasso's emblematic victim through the ordeal of the German Occupation during the Second World War. "For me she's the weeping woman," Picasso told Françoise Gilot. "For years I've painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me" (F. Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 122). As Picasso's biographer, Richardson has taken a more objectively insightful view of their relationship: "The source of Dora's tears was not Franco, but the artist's traumatic manipulation of her. Picasso's obsession with her had intensified [at that time], but to judge by the artist's portrayals of her, it precluded tenderness. Marie-Thérèse was submissive out of love; Dora out of a Sadean propensity" (exh. cat., op. cit., 2011, p. 46).

(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Etude pour 'Guernica', 3 June 1937. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. BARCODE: 28860198

(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, La femme qui pleure, I, 1 July 1937, VIIe état. Sold, Christie's, New York, 1 November 2011, lot 2. BARCODE: 25020786RS

(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Etude pour 'Guernica', 26 June 1937. Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. BARCODE: 28860204

(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Femme en pleurs, 26 October 1937. Tate Modern, London. BARCODE: 28860211

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