Lithograph, 1948, Mourlot's sixth state (of eleven), initialled in pencil by Fernand Mourlot, inscribed with his reference 134, 6e état and numbered 6/6 verso, one of six proofs reserved for the artist and the printer (there was no edition of this state), on Arches wove paper
Along with the Minotauoromachie, La Femme qui Pleure is Picasso's most important print and without doubt one of the most significant prints of the 20th Century. The image is at once arresting, emanating a powerful presence both through the sheer physicality of the sitter and through the emotionally charged atmosphere of the work.
In 1937 Picasso found himself in a maelstrom of personal and political anguish. It would lead him to create one of his greatest paintings Guernica, and alongside it the important series of paintings, drawings and prints of the La Femme qui Pleure. The motif of the Weeping Woman first makes an appearance in a drawing towards the end of May and in the coming months became a subject Picasso would return to repeatedly. Although the composition as it appears in the etching and in many of the paintings does not appear in the finished version of Guernica it became the vehicle through which Picasso explored many of the themes central to the mural.
In January 1937 Picasso had started work on a pair of etchings in support of the Republican side in the Spanish civil war titled Sueño y mentira di Franco (Dreams and lies of Franco) (see lot 83). In the same month he received an invitation to paint a large mural for the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris that summer. He saw the opportunity to make a great political statement and experimented with various possible subjects to achieve this through the spring. On 26th April the German air force, at the request of Franco's forces, repeatedly bombed the Basque town of Guernica, all but levelling the town and killing many civilians. The event caused outrage and was the catalyst to Picasso finding a subject through which he could channel his own abhorrence and anger at events unfolding in his native country.
Therefore La Femme qui Pleure is at once the victim of the bombing of Guernica and a witness to the terrifying experience of the citizens of the town. In the universal sense she represents the strongest possible reaction against war and the bloodshed and horrors that come with it. The news reports available to Picasso in the French press described the many women and children who were casualties of the bombing and from his mother's letters from Barcelona Picasso had a first hand account of the fighting there. So it is unsurprising that Picasso chose a female figure to make his statement, in doing so he suggests the Mater Dolorosa, a subject common in Spanish Art and a powerful totem in the Spanish psyche.
As ever in Picasso's art, event's in his own life also impacted very significantly on the development of the image providing a creative energy which would work in tandem with his worldly concerns. The turmoil in Picasso's private life would have a vital bearing, on the image. Certainly his personal life was more complex than at anytime in preceding decades, fraught as it was with the emotionally complex, overlapping relationships with the three women who in one way or another shared his life at this time.
The Weeping Woman is often described as a portrait of Dora Maar, his companion since the previous year of whom Picasso said 'For me Dora Maar is the weeping woman'. There are elements of Maar's physical appearance as Picasso depicted her in other portraits from this time evident in the composition. It has also been argued that characteristics belonging to Marie-Thérèse Walter, his mistress and mother to a child born to them in 1936 can be identified and also those of Olga, his wife since 1918 with whom Picasso's relations were at an all time low. One such example are the sitter's hands which are thought to depict those of both Maar and Walter. Maar's who kept her nails long, pointed and painted red is represented by the talon like hand prominently displayed at left, whilst the other hand with the nails bitten down is thought to be that of Marie-Thèrése.
Picasso created his great masterpiece in the workshop of Roger Lacourière who enabled Picasso to fully realise the potential of the various processes of the intaglio medium. Beginning in July 1937 Picasso would work the subject through seven states using etching, aquatint and drypoint. A few proofs of each of the states were printed, but only the third and seventh states were signed, numbered and printed in editions of just fifteen.
In harnessing elements from both his personal life and from the darkening political landscape of mid-1930s Europe, La Femme qui Pleure is a work that expresses aspects of the human condition, reflecting themes that are at once personal and universal and which continue to resonate today.
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