Pablo Picasso

Spanish, 1881 - 1973
In the spring of 1943, while still with Dora Maar, Pablo Picasso met Francoise Gilot, then a young art student. She soon became his mistress, and gave birth to their daughter Paloma and son Claude not long after the two moved-in together in 1946. The family split their time between Paris and the Mediterranean, where Picasso had purchased his villa near Vallauris. A self-proclaimed Communist, Picasso was reputed for the politically charged nature of the works he executed during this period, but as Michael C. Fitzgerald writes it was "Picasso's still lifes, portraits, and figure paintings that constitute his major work of these years.... Moreover, the portraits of Francoise and their children, Claude and Paloma, not only constitute a remarkable group of private images; they also frequently infuse the more public pictures with a welcome element of playfulness and renew dialogue with past art that would increasingly propel Picasso's late career" (Michael C. Fitzgerald, "A Triangle of Ambitions: Art, Politics, and Family during the Postwar Years with Francoise Gilot," Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York 1996, pp. 411 and 413).

The present work, presumed to be a portrait of Gilot, was executed in May of 1953. By this time the couple's relationship was strained, stemming from Picasso's numerous affairs and Gilot's resistance to having a third child. Consistent with many of Picasso's portraits of Gilot towards the end of their relationship, Tete de Femme reflects a new characterization of his mistress. While reconfiguration of his female subjects was not new to Picasso's work, the present painting is remarkable as Gilot's trademark emotive, wide oval eyes, perfect nose and full lips are now almost indistinguishable. Here the artist skillfully employs line and monochromatic color to depict Gilot's face with flattened planes. Volume has been reduced by a careful manipulation of these elements, and Gilot's bust is clearly dilineated against the bare, white background. Picasso and Gilot's relationship lasted until the sum¬mer of 1953, when the artist left her for Jacqueline Roque.

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
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