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Femme assise dans un fauteuil gris (Woman Seated in a Grey Armchair)

  • Date: 
    1939
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    130 x 97 cm
  • Category: 
    Painting
  • Entry date: 
    1999
  • Register number: 
    DE01358
On January 13th 1939, Pablo Picasso’s mother died in Barcelona, and a month later Catalonia was occupied by Franco’s troops. In March, Hitler invaded Prague and later Madrid fell to General Franco, who announced, on April 1st, the surrender of the Republican Army and his victory in the Civil War. The news kept coming from his country, adding to Picasso’s private grief and, significantly, it was on the very day of the Republican surrender, April 1st 1939, that he completed Femme assise dans un fauteuil gris (Woman Seated in a Grey Armchair).
The dramatic quality of the piece can be explained by the events of the months leading up to its completion. Into this unusual, psychologically very complex, portrait of a seated woman, the artist was possibly pouring his pain at the loss of his mother and his feelings about the political situation in Spain, fusing together the images of the two women in his life at that time, Dora Maar and Marie-Thérèse Walter. The result is a formal and conceptual amalgamation that is as desperate as Guernica itself. With her head thrown back, the figure – “this marriage of woman and beast”, to use Roland Penrose’s words – screams as if in the throes of some unbearable pain, while her convulsing body, consisting of cubic blocks of an almost sculptural monumentality, evokes, even with the sober colours used, the aesthetics of Cubist compositions.

Paloma Esteban Leal

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