PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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Property sold to benefit the Dina and Raphael Recanati Family Foundation
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Femme hurlant sa douleur

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Femme hurlant sa douleur
signed ‘Picasso’ (lower left)
black wax crayon, black Conté crayon and pencil on paper
11 5/8 x 8 3/8 in. (29.3 x 21.4 cm.)
Drawn in 1937
Galerie Moos, Geneva.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired from the above, March 1945).
Anatole Litvak, Los Angeles (acquired from the above, June 1948).
Lee and Isabel Ault, New York (by 1966).
Elkon Gallery, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the late owners, circa 1970.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1958, vol. 9, no. 75 (illustrated, pl. 32).
P. Sollers, Picasso, le héros, Paris, 1996, pp. 50 and 128 (illustrated, p. 53, pl. 26; with incorrect cataloguing).

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

This searing depiction of pain and anguish dates from 1937, a landmark year for Pablo Picasso, which saw the creation of some of his most important works: Guernica (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 65; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid) was completed in the spring, while the haunting motif, Femme en pleurs (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 73; Tate, London), reached its final iteration in October.
It is to this latter work that Femme hurlant sa douleur is closely related, one of a series in a range of media on this theme that Picasso executed over the course of this year. Inspired by the profile of his muse of the time, Dora Maar, he wrought the angst and terror of the world upon her face—mouth agape, eyes and brow exaggeratedly downturned, and often, tears like tracks incised down her visage. While born out of her and the artist’s personal reactions to the unfolding horrors of 1937, the figure has become a timeless manifestation of universal human sorrow.
When, in April 1937, the fascists bombed the small Basque town of Guernica, Picasso abandoned his initial idea of an artist and model theme for his Spanish Pavilion mural, and immediately embarked on this atrocity as the subject for this work. He threw himself into this new project, producing numerous studies of the various figures that would people his composition. On 10 May he drew 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 shortly after, on 24 May (Zervos, vol. 9, nos. 31 and 33), and continued for the duration of his work on Guernica. 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 sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spanish religious art.
Picasso completed Guernica on 4 June. The Weeping Woman, however, did not ultimately appear in this monumental work. Perhaps Picasso found these harrowing, yet beautiful figures too powerful for the rest of the carefully balanced ensemble that already featured four women, together with the primal mythic symbolism implied through the bull and the horse. Additionally, Picasso intended Guernica to depict the stunned victims’ immediate response to the actual moments of destruction, rather than the tears of grief that would follow.
Picasso, however, did not leave 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” (Picasso and the Weeping Women, The Years of Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar, exh cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 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), before taking his summer holiday in Mougins with Dora and their friends. He returned to the subject in October, culminating in the oil version, Femme en pleurs, dated 26 October 1937 (Zervos, vol. 9, no. 73) which Roland Penrose purchased from Picasso in November.
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” (quoted in F. Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 122). It seems that Dora’s own emotional volatility played into Picasso’s conception of her in this anguished state. In a letter from April 1937, Dora implored the artist to forgive her for, as John Richardson recently quoted, “those scenes, do not take them seriously, you have to take them lightly, as a joke… I will not cry, I will not scream, that is over now” (quoted in J. Richardson, Picasso, The Minotaur Years, 1933-1943, New York, 2021, p. 143). Elsewhere Richardson has stated, “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” (L'Amour Fou: Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2011, p. 46).

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