(1882 - 1973)
The year 1937 was a vintage year in Picasso's switchback
career. It was the year in which, in passionate indignation at the bombing
of villages in the Spanish Civil War, he painted Guernica for the Spanish
pavilion in the Paris Exhibition. It was also the year in which he made
some of his most tenderly lyrical drawings in the series connected with
Before the Guernica came a series of exploratory studies in which he built up the composition of the panel, and after it another series of drawings, prints and paintings in which the angry mood of Guernica is forced to an even greater pitch of intensity than in the panel itself. Of that series of paintings The Weeping Woman is the most passionate in expression and the most explicit in form.
With Picasso, more than with any other artist, form
and expression are so closely linked that one can only be described in
terms of the other. Whatever, the "subject" of his picture may be, it is
by means of his ceaselessly experimental methods of formal organization
that it acquires its impact. A woman, a guitar, a bull or a coffee pot
becomes a vehicle for a mood, tender or vitriolic, precise or mysterious,
according to the kind of linear rhythms, the chord of colour, even the
tempo of the pencil or brush as it makes contact with the paper or canvas.
Every other European artist is the slave of his own stylistic habits but
Picasso's restless mind will not permit him to acquire such habits. Ever
since his beginnings as a serious artists, in the "blue" period of the
early nineteen hundreds, he had discovered for himself a sequence of modes
of self-expression. And that sequence has never been the outcome of a logical
development, as with all other artists, but of a fearless opportunism in
the course of which he has never hesitated to pillage or borrow the stylistic
syntax or vocabulary of the art of any nation or culture that could be
of service to him. a list of such borrowings would fill this page. The
wonder is that behind all of them there is a recognizable personality.
And that personality is recognizably Spanish in its passionate, sometimes
frightening power. He has lived in France ever since his precocious maturity.
But there is in his work none of the stylish elegance of a Braque or a
The Weeping Woman of 1937 is an unusually powerful
work even for Picasso, partly because its brave distortions seem so inevitable
given the subject, that it speaks for itself. The rhythms, are appropriately
enough for the theme of uncontrolled grief, fiercely angular, all but the
sweep of the hair which seems to enclose the whole structure of the head.
Each feature is seen from its most explicit point of view - the nose from
the side, the mouth from a three-quarter angle, the glaring eyes from the
fronts. The white handkerchief she holds in front of her face has become
transparent so that it shall not conceal the symbolic tracks of the tears
that furrow her cheeks. Above them, the tears themselves hang, like pearls,
form her eyelids. The colour, like the form is harsh and acidulated, and
like the form it is precise, clear-cut and elementary. This is a cast in
which no mystery is needed, nothing but a ruthless isolation of the emotion
to be portrayed.
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