Josep Carner (Barcelona, 1884--Brussels, 1970), is known as 'the prince of Catalan poets'. He was a renovating influence of poetry, prose and the language itself and was one of the leading members of a generation of brilliant poets. His work extends from from the early years of the century to the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.
The subject of weeping women dominates much of Picasso's artistic output from 1937. The most public use of the theme occurs in what is probably Picasso's most important painting, Guernica, which was produced for the Spanish Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.
In early January, 1937, Picasso also started work on a more personal statement, the pair of etchings entitled Sueño y mentira di Franco (Dreams and Lies of Franco; B. 297-8; Ba. 615-6). Expressing solidarity with the Republican faction in Spain, they illustrate his own prose poem. Put to one side in order that the artist could complete the Guernica mural, the second plate was taken up again and completed in early June after the delivery of the painting. In two of the final three 'cells', weeping women, clearly indebted to figures in Guernica, appear.
At the same time as completing Sueño y mentira di Franco, Picasso concentrated on other images of the weeping woman. On May 24th, 1937 he produced the first drawing which is a recognizable prototype for the etching, by June 20th the hands below now clutch a handkerchief and her left hand has gained the scissor form which is retained in the print. On July 1st, Picasso turned his attention to a large copper plate on which he sketched the first state of La Femme qui pleure, I, in drypoint.
The culmination of seven months' obsession, the print which followed represents the artist's strongest and most defined statement in printmaking. Working steadily on the plate, Picasso produced seven independent states of the image. In the third and then in the seventh state, editions of fifteen were pulled, in the other states only a few trial proofs.
The most overtly political of all of the artist's prints, the woman is generally thought to represent Spain torn by civil war. The concept of a weeping woman, which may in part be inspired by Dora Maar (to whom Picasso referred as "La Pleureuse"), must also relate to the Mater Dolorosa, a common subject in Spanish religious art. In addition, the artist was receiving news of the Spanish Civil War from his mother in Barcelona. In one of her letters, she complained that fires in the streets of that city were causing her eyes to tear.
Transcending the use of any identifiable model, the image which confronts the viewer in this graphic masterpiece is of a woman in pain, a handkerchief clutched to her face, her mouth frozen in a silent shriek. The vertical band of aquatint anchors her within an enclosed space but her positioning within the picture plane adds to the viewer's sense of discomfort. The woman seems to be fighting to stay within the confines of the plate, slowly losing her grip. Two sword-like tears spurt from her right eye, recalling the swords of the Virgin of Seven Sorrows.
Impressive in both its strength and concept and its extraordinary size, La Femme qui pleure, I, is generally regarded as one of the artist's two most important prints. As an anti-war message, it must be seen as one of the most powerful works produced by Picasso in any medium.