Of the seven oil paintings by Pablo Picasso in the Norton Simon’s collections, ranging in date from 1913 to 1955, three were included in the artist’s first retrospective, held at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris between June 16 and July 30, 1932: The Ram’s Head (1925), Woman with Mandolin (1925) and Head of a Woman (c. 1927). This exhibition has attracted considerable attention from art historians, both because it was the first comprehensive assembly of the artist’s work to date, and because Picasso curated the show himself. READ
In 1927 Picasso embarked on a series of paintings that radically reduce the human head to a simple black line with distorted, often redistributed facial features. While some versions of this theme were overtly threatening, with gaping mouths displaying razor-sharp teeth, Head of a Woman is more subdued in mood. Picasso’s experimental approach to the body at this moment owes much to the influence of Surrealism, and the movement’s desire to express the unseen and instinctual aspects of human experience. Like many Surrealist images, Head of a Woman confounds straightforward interpretation. Some scholars have related the pursed mouth with its stitch-like suggestions of teeth to Picasso’s frustrations with his deteriorating marriage to Olga Picasso. Others, however, trace the curvilinear shape of the head to Picasso’s new lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, whose rounded features and short, straight hair appeared in many of the artist’s paintings over the next ten years.
- Artist Name: Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
- Title: Head of a Woman
- Date: c. 1927
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 21-5/8 x 13-1/8 in. (54.9 x 33.3 cm)
- Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
- Accession Number: P.1953.074
- Copyright: © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
[Galerie Percier, Paris, sold December 1932 to];
Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, 1953-1954;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena,1954-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, 1975.
Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, no. 405 pp. 404-405
Tériade, E., Cahiers d'Art, p. 73
Zervos, Christian, Pablo Picasso: Oeuvres de 1926 à 1932, no. 122
Kunstaus Zurich, Picasso: 11 September bis 13 November 1932, no. 173
Robert Rosenblum, "Picasso as Surrealist", repr. p. 21
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