Artist: Pablo Picasso
Title: The Weeping Woman
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 60 x 49 cm
The Weeping Woman is an oil on canvas painted by Picasso in 1937. It painted about a woman, Dora Maar, a photography and also Picasso’s lover. Picasso remembered clearly Maar’s crying when her father passed away. He thinks Maar is always a weeping woman so he choose to paint her. Moreover, the Weeping Woman had relation to the historical background of that time. It was a visual expression of anger to the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War began in 1936, year after that Picasso finished The Weeping Woman. So the Weeping Woman is considered to be the continuation of the tragedy in his painting Guernica, which showed the consequences of war – death, and death brings depression and sadness. Judi Freeman described the painting as a symbol of human misery. The woman in Picasso’s painting was representing innocent people who suffered from pain of losing their love and home during the war.
Cubism Features and Work Analysis: Multiple Viewpoints
The Weeping Woman carries several cubist features:
First, it used multiple viewpoints that showed collage. For example, there are 2 body positions we can find in the painting. One is the frontal face which can be seen through Maar’s eyes. At the same time, the profile view of Maar was seen on her month and teeth. It created a 3D effect. In addition, there were overlapping shapes. A handkerchief was placed in front of Maar’s month, but we can also see her biting the handkerchief and the whole picture made the handkerchief look like transparent. Showing the action of Maar biting the handkerchief could demonstrate Maar painful and uncomfortable feelings and she might want to vent through biting. Maar’s fierce look of stuffing the handkerchief between her teeth with her hands creasing on the handkerchief was an expression of her anger and distress. Lastly, Maar was holding her handkerchief in her hands, but on other perspective, her hands was like praying. This might suggest that she was praying for her father and the people suffering from the war. Picasso combined multiple viewpoints in one painting to show Maar painful and angry feelings.
Second, the picture space was constructed through angular planes. The eyes of Maar were round and the composition shapes of her face were triangle, square and circle. For instance, her handkerchief was geometric and even spiky and her face had been dislocated. Maar’s face was like being cut up and put back in a random order that was not symmetrical. Her nose and month were not in their normal positions. That made Maar’s face fragmental and her handkerchief was just like a broken mirror. The Weeping Woman contained a number of geometric shapes and hard-edged lines. This irregular shapes made the whole picture not harmonious and created emotions of restless as well as nervous. It was truth that Maar was very upset and she might need comfort. Yet there also seemed to be a wall to protect Maar from the outside world and the glasses of the handkerchief would hurt people. The poor woman, in the meantime, was hard to approach.
Apart from this, the Weeping Woman used bright and vibrant colors. The wall on the background was yellow and brown. It showed an indoor place where Dora Maar was located. Additionally, she was wearing a black color clothing. In this case, Maar might be attending the funeral of her father. Therefore, on such an occasion, Maar was depress and weak. The colors used in the painting were mostly not in harmony and they also made contrast. For example, green blended in yellow in half of the woman’s face. Green and yellow represented illness that Maar might be too upset and the tragedy made her unwell. These two colors were contrast to the purple blush around her eyes and nose. Apparently, Maar had been crying and wiping her tears away for a long time. So there were blood stasis left on her face to show that it was difficult of Maar to calm down from the misery. Furthermore, the other half of Maar’s face and the handkerchief were painted in white color. It was the contrast color of Maar’s clothing. White was used to describe someone in shock or sickness, but it never did appeared on a human’s face, as well as green and purple. Picasso might want to emphasize how strong the feeling was to suffer from the pain of losing someone she loved. This is how Sir Ronald Penrose, Picasso’s friend and also the owner of this painting, response to the white color, “The white handkerchief pressed to her face hides nothing of the agonized grimace on her lip: it serves merely to bleach her cheeks with the color of death.” This white face was not only pathetic, it was horrible as well that like kind of ghostly figure and it was the color of death. This sorrow emotion also demonstrated what the war brought. At that time, people were afraid of war and death. Besides, Picasso used bright colors of red and blue in the woman’s hat. They made a big contrast to the yellow background, the woman’s face and the woman’s black hair. These emotional colors used in the painting expressed some very strong feelings like angry and worried. People were dissatisfied of the government who brought them into the war. Bright colors were usually used in some joyful and positive environments. Picasso used lots of bright colors in this painting, but when those colors being put together, they were not harmonious and it created uncomfortable feeling.
Looking deeper in this painting, it is noticing that the woman’s eyes kept wide-opened. Maar is so upset in the painting and she even cannot stop crying. Normally, our eyes become smaller or closed when we are crying since it would be unbearable if we do not close our eyes and let the tears drop down. However, it was not the case in Picasso’s painting. People might keep their eyes close when they can be healed by themselves and they can handle what they have suffered. Then, it might suggested that an open eyes means a person is searching for others’ help or he/she is shocked. It might be truth that Maar was looking for comfort because she cannot stop crying by herself. Her eyes were full of unbearable pain and her faces were full of tears as well as blood stasis and the handkerchief was useless except of being a tool to give vent of her emotions. Maar was feeble and frustrated so she kept her eyes open to look for help from the outside world. What is more, in the Weeping Woman, the reason might be related to the historical background that there were many death during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso chose to paint a big, rounded eyes as he might want to express the condition of the refugees. They were helpless. They were the most innocent group of people during the civil war and because of the war, they lost everything and the government was not protecting them. Therefore, the woman might be a symbol of these citizen who were afraid of the reality and asking for mercy by showing her painful eyes.
The Weeping Woman, through its title and the whole picture of the painting, it was believed to be expressions of blue and painful. Nonetheless, Ronald raised another totally different view. He thought it represented a more optimistic faith. He said, “As the stream follows across the contour of her cheek it passes her ear, the form of which is not unlike a bee come to distill honey from the salt of despair.” Also, he explained the woman’s right ear has turned into a bird and the bird was sipping at her tears. It was a sign of new life and hope. There were more symbolic items, such as the blue flower on her hat and her hair. The blossoming flower gave a sign of a new beginning. Maar’s hair which flows like a river could take away her sorrow. Those symbolized very positive and hopeful meanings. Although hope cannot erase her pain of the moment, she would be pacified and move on from the sadness one day. In my own opinion, hope still could not be seen at the moment. It is a fact that the dark day would pass eventually, yet the war was going on and no one knew when it would end. People were still in fear. And Maar also could not recover from the sadness of losing her father. Picasso wanted the civil war end but if he thought the pain could be erased, he might painted a woman who was getting better instead of painting such a heartbreaking woman.
The Weeping Woman contained two meanings. The first one was a painful woman who had lost her father. Her emotions were shown through the bright and contrast colors that had an uncomfortable feeling. Moreover, Picasso used cubist features such as multiple viewpoints and angular planes to create irregular lines and shapes. It made the woman’s face looked fragmental and her depression was being expressed. On the other hand, the Weeping Woman implied the effects of the Spanish Civil War which would brought along innumerable death. That was why the picture had complex feelings of anger and grief. It was the reflection to the reality.
Book and Journal
1. Freeman, Judi. Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar. Woman’s Art Journal 17 (1996): 47-49.
2. Kissick, John. Art: Context and Criticism (2nd ed.). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1996.
3. Penrose, Sir Ronald, Picasso, His Life and Work (3rd ed.), University of California Press, 1981.
4. Tate Blogs. Beaven, Kirstie: Pablo Picasso: Weeping Woman Work, April 26, 2010. Tate. http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/pablo-picasso-weeping-woman-work-week-26-april-2010
5. The Guardian Culture. Jones, Jonathan: Weeping Woman, Pablo Picasso (1937), May 13, 2000. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/may/13/art
6. Junior Art Think. Weeping Woman. https://sites.google.com/site/juniorartthink/welcome/weeping-woman
ART REVIEW : The Pain and Passion of Picasso's 'Women' : 'Weeping Women' at LACMA reveals how the intersection of political events and the artist's tangled romantic life conspired to give us these remarkable pictorial essays on human sorrow.
"Weeping Woman With a Handkerchief" has always seemed to be a little gem, but the exhibition frames it in such a way as to reveal it as far superior than otherwise recognized. By the time the show is over, you look at the painting in a new way--which is to say that now you really look at it.
The canvas is not large--21 5/8 by 18 1/8 inches--but it packs a considerable punch. It shows the bust of a Spanish woman (she wears a mantilla) sobbing into a handkerchief. In just six colors, plus black and white, Picasso created an indelible image of mortal grief.
The bean-shaped head, balancing precariously on the point of a triangular neck, is surrounded by heavy blackness. The resulting sense of compression is enhanced by the flattened forms of the mantilla, whose open weave of lace is paradoxically represented by thick, crisscrossing lines.
The woman's skin is bright white. Her nose and cheek are flushed with hot magenta, her acidic green lips shaded with pale, icy blue. The vivid yellow blouse framing her knotted fingers shrieks against the blackness of the background, while her red-orange hair hums against the complementary greens of the mantilla framing her head.
The sobbing eyes and the handkerchief are marvelous inventions. Thick, black lines stream weightily from the eyes, which are themselves shaped like teardrops. The handkerchief adjacent is a crumpled cloud, which Picasso has muddled with an agitated storm of scribbled pencil lines.
The 1955 gift of the picture was important for LACMA, because the Picasso was a special prize. It was painted within a week or two of the completion of his famous monumental picture of the brutal fascist bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica, a picture to which the small canvas bears an obvious relationship.
As the exhibition further demonstrates, for the first time, it also represents the resolution of an important theme that had absorbed Picasso in the months leading up to "Guernica" and that preoccupied him for several months after.
Almost never did Picasso paint faces that portrayed intensely descriptive emotion. The series of weeping women, which appear in about 60 drawings, prints and paintings throughout 1937, are an anomaly. Where did they come from?
The show's organizer, Judi Freeman, convincingly shows how the intersection of political events, represented by the Spanish civil war, and of personal relationships, in the artist's notoriously tangled romantic life, conspired to give us these remarkable pictorial essays on human sorrow.
And with a gentle swipe at the admittedly insightful "boy's club" of scholars who dominate Picasso studies, the show's fine catalogue suggests that their admiring identification with the artist has kept them from seeing the unusual significance of the pictures of weeping women.
The show is divided into galleries with portraits of each of the principal women then in Picasso's romantic life. (There were also a few passing affairs.) He was estranged from his wife, Russian ballet dancer Olga Koklova. He was growing tired of his mistress, Marie-Therese Walter. And he was embarking on a new liaison with Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, who helped him to create "Guernica."
The political trauma of the Spanish civil war, in which the devastation of the Basque town was not unlike that in Sarajevo today, is necessarily represented by reproductions because "Guernica" cannot travel. A photograph (to scale) of Picasso's monumental painting, and of a dozen studies for figures in the mural, is accompanied by an eight-minute, unfinished documentary film, commissioned in 1949 from the legendary director of "Nanook of the North," Robert Flaherty.