Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman is one of his best known paintings. Picasso actually did a series of at least 4 paintings of the Weeping Woman. The woman portrayed in the paintings was a young artist, photographer and poet named Dora Maar. Dora was a frequent muse for Picasso, and the Weeping Woman character also featured in her own work.
Weeping Woman was painted in 1937. Earlier that year Picasso painted a monochrome mural called Guernica as a response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque village in the north of Spain. On the left of Guernica there is the figure of a woman. She is holding the body of her child and wailing at the sky. This figure was the beginning of Picasso’s Weeping Woman series, and the painting above was the last. One common reason cited for him painting the Weeping Woman was that during the war he received a letter from his mother saying that the smoke from the battles stung her eyes, making her weep. The painting is said to represent women weeping loved ones lost at war.
“For me she’s the weeping woman. For years I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Picasso and Dora Maar had an affair lasting from 1936 to 1945. He referred to her as his “private muse”. Their relationship, although never legitimate as Picasso was married to his first wife Olga Khokhlova for the duration of their relationship, grew strained after Dora found out she could not have children. He did father three children during this marriage, only one of whom was with his wife.
“Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso once told another mistress, Françoise Gilot, also an artist. Whether he was being literal or poetic, this describes his treatment of women fairly well. Two of his most prominent lovers committed suicide, and two went mad.
As Weeping Woman was painted just two years after Picasso and Olga separated, and a year after his affair with the mother of his first daughter, Maia ended, I see this painting as him expressing some remorse over the way he’s treated women. It still shows the bright colours he painted his women in before, but here the shattered heart shape of the tissue she holds reveals that inside the colour has now gone.
Weeping Woman is on display at the Tate Modern in London, England.
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