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Bust of a Woman, 1923

Pablo Picasso

Spanish, 1881-1973
Oil with fixed black chalk on canvas
39-1/4 x 32 in. (99.7 x 81.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On view

By the early 1920s Picasso had reached back to classical antiquity for new inspiration. He painted a number of single women, dressed in simple quasi-antique dress, who achieve the power and dignity of classical heroines. Lost in thought, this massive, statuesque young woman seems to have been carved from marble. The painting is rendered in dramatic shades of grey and white. Details, such as eyes and hair, are reinforced with decisive strokes of black chalk. The signature in the upper right is the only dab of color. Picasso's Bust of a Woman displays a profound psychological complexity. The monochromatic palette, and even the figure's faraway gaze, suggest serenity. Yet her larger-than-life arms and splayed hands, pushed into the foreground in an uneasy and bulky pinwheel, emphasize an underlying anxiety.

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