Diana Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Among Pablo Picasso’s earliest sculptures, Tête de femme dates from a transformative moment in the artist’s early career, during which he was inundated with a variety of stimulating influences that decisively changed the course of his art. With a striking simplicity, the stylised, mask-like face of Tête de femme encapsulates the radical new direction that Picasso had begun to take at this time, as he began to rethink the nature of representation, opening up bold new possibilities for both painting and sculpture.
Conceived between 1906 and 1907, Tête de femme dates from the artist’s so-called ‘Iberian’ period. At the beginning of 1906, Picasso had discovered a newly acquired collection of Iberian sculptures at the Louvre, and was entranced by the expressionless, mask-like faces of these ancient objects. His summer trip to Gósol, a remote, rural village high up in the Spanish Pyrenees, heightened his interest in sculpture, opening his eyes to the unique aesthetic qualities of this three-dimensional art form. Indeed it was this summer sojourn that, as the dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler stated, marked the beginning of the artist’s lifelong experimentation with this medium (W. Spies, Picasso: The Sculptures, Stuttgart, 2000, p. 31).
On his return to Paris, Picasso’s art changed. Leaving behind the Symbolist motifs and flattened waif-like figures of his Rose period, he began to transform the figure into solid, volumetric forms, taking a particularly sculptural approach in the construction and modelling of the human body. Likewise, the female face was stripped of individuality and sentiment, endowed with depersonalised mask-like features. With her perfectly symmetrical visage and highly stylised physiognomy, Tête de femme exemplifies these radical developments, demonstrating how Picasso forged a new mode of representation, one that was no longer reliant on realistic observation, but instead abstracted and simplified. Tête de femme marks the beginning of this trailblazing trajectory: this conception of the female form would become central to Picasso’s work of 1907, and reached its clearest apogee in the iconic and iconoclastic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Before entering Leslie Waddington’s collection, Tête de femme belonged to the renowned collector, patron and scholar of Cubism, Douglas Cooper. Cooper was a passionate and devoted advocate of Cubism, amassing one of the largest cubist collections of the XXth Century, particularly the work of Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Picasso. He became very close with Picasso in the 1950s, residing near the artist’s home in the south of France. A long-term champion of the artist, Cooper kept Tête de femme in his collection until his death in 1984.