Pablo Picasso (Spanish [worked in France], Malagá, Spain 1881 - 1973 Mougins, France)
Head of a Woman (Fernande Olivier), ca. 1906
Inscribed on the back proper right side along the bottom edge: PICASSO
Height: 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1955
This bust of Fernande Olivier, who lived with Picasso from 1904 to 1911, is one of a small number of sculptural portraits made by the artist soon after his move to Paris from Barcelona in 1904. Its asymmetry heralds a creative principle that was to emerge more fully in the seminal painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907.
From 1904 to 1909 Picasso occupied his first studio in the Bateau Lavoir, a tenement building in Montmartre and home of such other artists, poets, and writers as Max Jacob (1876-1944), Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), and Juan Gris (1887-1927). During this period of intense creativity, Picasso's energies were absorbed primarily by painting and drawing; he painted the harlequin and circus pictures of his Rose Period (1904-5) and made the decisive first steps toward Cubism. The relatively small number of sculptures created during this period reveal diverse formal concerns and approaches, yet all bear close relationships to the artist's contemporary paintings and drawings.1 The bust of Fernande is one of three portraits of this period.
Most of these early sculptures were not commissioned.2 They were often made of clay, and some were only later cast in bronze, often without the artist's supervision. In the case of the portrait sculptures, the sitters were usually among his immediate circle of friends. Evidence suggests that Picasso worked out his compositions while making the sculpture, rather than through preparatory drawings, and that he worked from the model in a fairly traditional way.3
Picasso's earliest known sculpture is the Seated Woman of 1902, a small bronze produced in clay when the artist was twenty-one.4 Like all his later sculptural works, the piece represents an individual figure, in this case one that resembles the figures in his contemporary Blue Period paintings. Picasso soon moved to a more focused examination of facial expression in his sculptures of masks of 1903 and in the more fully modeled busts of 1905. The Jester, a bust that dates to 1905, the year before the portrait of Fernande, began as a portrait of Max Jacob but took the more general form of a jester with the addition of a fool's cap; it is closely related to the painted circus performers, harlequins, and saltimbanques of the artist's contemporary Rose Period.5 The Portrait of Alice Derain of 1904-5 lacks the symbolic element of the cap, and is less vigorously modeled, with the right side of the face less defined than the left.6
The bust of Fernande represents a departure from the earlier work in its approach to volume. The head is treated as a more compact mass, and the nose and mouth are more distinctly modeled than in the portrait of Alice Derain. The asymmetry between the two halves of the face in the Derain portrait is further emphasized in this work, with the proper right eye (viewer's left) only lightly incised in contrast to the sharper modeling of the proper left eye. As noted by Spies, this different treatment of each side of the head heralds a creative principle--the antithesis between the two halves of a work--that would be crystallized several months later in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907, The Museum of Modern Art).7 Though Johnson dates the bust of Fernande to the same year as that of Alice Derain,8 Spies convincingly dates it to 1906, after the artist's return from Gosol, Spain, primarily on stylistic grounds.9 The bust of Fernande, as well as the sculpture Woman Arranging Her Hair of 1906, both show the artist's increased interest in plasticity and volume.10
Fernande Olivier was Picasso's mistress during the seminal years at the Bateau Lavoir from 1904 until 1909, when they moved into his new studio on the Boulevard de Clichy. In late 1911 Picasso's relationship with Fernande began to decline, and he entered into a new liaison with Eva Gouel. Picasso created a number of portraits of Fernande in various media throughout their relationship, including a woodcut dated to 1905-6, another woodcut of the same year as the Oberlin sculpture,11 and a 1906 gouache of a nude Fernande reclining.12 A later bronze head of Fernande was one of Picasso's few Cubist sculptures and represents a radical departure from his earlier sculptural work.13
Work (C) 1998 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Pablo Picasso moved to Paris from Barcelona in 1904, where he would remain until 1945. Here he began to meet artists and writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and Kees Van Dongen, and dealers such as Ambroise Vollard and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler. The saltimbanques, jesters, and harlequins of his Blue Period (1901-1904) continued to be the dominant subjects of his Rose Period (1904-5), although the work of this period is distinctive for its lighter palette and less melancholic mood. During this period he also produced several sculptures and prints. The most experimental period of his early career, around 1906-7, culminated in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907. By the end of 1908, Picasso moved towards early (analytical) Cubism, working in partnership with Georges Braque to formulate an artistic paradigm that would have an extensive impact on the art of the first half of the twentieth century. Picasso continued to work in a synthetic Cubist idiom into the early 1920s. He joined the Spanish Republican cause, painting the monumental Guernica (Madrid, Centro de la Reina Sofía) in 1937 in protest against the bombing of a Basque town by pro-Franco German bombers. Leaving Paris in 1946 he lived in Antibes and Vauvenargues, continuing to create numerous works in various media, including graphics and ceramics. Never aligning himself with any movement after Cubism, he remained extraordinarily productive until the end of his life and was one of the most versatile and influential artists of the twentieth century.
Zervos, Christian. Pablo Picasso. 33 vols. Paris, 1932-78.
Barr, Alfred H. Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art. New York, 1946.
Kahnweiler, Daniel-Henry. The Sculptures of Picasso. London, 1949.
Bloch, Georges. Pablo Picasso: Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié, 1904-1969. 2 vols. Bern, 1961.
Penrose, Roland. The Sculpture of Picasso. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1967.
Spies, Werner. Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works. New York, 1971.
Rubin, William, ed. Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1980.
McCully, Marilyn, ed. Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1997.
With Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in June 1955
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, 1953-54. Sculpture and Sculptor's Drawings. 22 December - 24 January. Cat. no. 50, ill.
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, 1955. Closing Exhibition--Sculpture, Paintings, and Drawings. From 8 June. Cat. no. 150.
New York, Fine Arts Associates, 1957. Picasso Sculpture. 15 January - 9 February. Cat. no. 5.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1957. Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition. May 22 - September 8 (also shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and Philadelphia Museum of Art). Cat.no. 3.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1980. Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective. 22 May - 16 September. Cat. p. 71, ill.
Hamilton, Chloe. Oberlin Alumni Magazine 52, no. 6 (May 1956), pp. 12-13.
Barr, Alfred H. Jr. Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1957, cat. no. 3, ill. p. 26.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 196; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 270.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of European and American Painting and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, pp. 207-8, fig. 269.
Rubin, William, ed. Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1980, ill. p. 71.
The sculpture is in generally good condition. It is hollow cast in a copper alloy (bronze) finished with a black/dark brown patina. There are some areas of green copper corrosion, mostly on the face and neck, and it is likely that it was once exhibited outside. The artist's name is inscribed on the back proper right side along the bottom edge, and there is no foundry mark evident. The interior was inaccessible during examination due to the mount.
1. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), p. 21.
2. The Oberlin version is one of an unknown number of early casts edited by Vollard, inscribed by signature only. A later edition of nine casts was made by Valsuani in 1959; these are all signed, numbered, and stamped with the Valsuani foundry mark. Johnson estimates that approximately four casts were made in the early edition of this work. For a list of casts and locations see Ron Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso, 1901-1914 (New York, 1976), pp. 163ff.
3. Ron Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso, 1901-1914 (New York, 1976), p. 39.
4. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), cat. no. 1.
5. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), cat. no. 4.
6. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), cat. no. 5.
7. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), pp. 18-19.
8. Furthermore, Johnson notes that Alice Derain considered the sculpture to date to only shortly after Picasso had met Fernande; Ron Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso, 1901-1914 (New York, 1976), p. 39.
9. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), p. 19.
10. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), cat. no. 7.
11. Bernhard Geiser, Picasso, Peintre-Graveur (Bern, 1955), cat. nos. 211, 212.
12. Cleveland Museum of Art, Nude Lying Down, 47.3 x 61.3 cm, inv. 1954.865; Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 1 (Paris, 1932), cat. no. 317.
13. Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works (New York, 1971), cat. no. 24.