Head of Fernande

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
1909; cast 1960
Bronze, Edition of 9, Cast No. 3 
16-1/4 x 9-1/2 x 10-1/4 in. (41.3 x 24.1 x 26 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© 2017 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

With its startlingly faceted features, Head of Fernande is considered the first Cubist sculpture. The bust is loosely based on Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s lover and muse, who inspired him to produce an astonishing sixty works of art during a particularly prolific period in 1909. Picasso modeled the original head in clay, alternating between building up mass and paring it away. This duality of process is preserved in the bronze cast of the sculpture seen here, as Fernande’s facial features emerge and are obliterated by bulges, gouges, ridges and recesses. No two elements are alike: notice the eyebrows, one of which is incised while the other protrudes in relief. Picasso employed these oppositions to animate the perception of his work. As he explained years later, “I want to draw the mind in a direction it’s not used to and wake it up. I want to help the viewer discover something he wouldn’t have discovered without me.”

After Head of Fernande was cast in bronze (beginning in 1910, with a second edition in 1960) it was widely exhibited and published. Picasso’s fragmentation of form influenced a generation of sculptors, including Jacques Lipchitz, whose Bather III is also on view in this gallery.

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