Exhibitions: European Paintings

Pablo Picasso: Woman in Gray

Throughout his long career, Picasso remained devoted to the human figure, rendered with varying degrees of naturalism and abstraction. The seated female figure in these works is often identified by her broad-brimmed hat and veil as Picasso’s partner and fellow artist Dora Maar (née Henriette Theodora Markovitch, 1907–1997). Picasso scholars are quick to note, however, that the extreme abstractions of the figure—particularly the face—express the era’s violence and uncertainties rather than offer an interpretation of a specific individual. Here Picasso deploys a number of signature distortions found in his works of this period—flattened features, a snoutlike nose, bared teeth, and an uneven gaze. With dramatic tonal contrasts in the face from white to dark gray and black, Picasso paradoxically suggests the dramatic shifts of light and shade, or chiaroscuro, that usually accompany modeled, rounded form rather than the flat, unmodulated color seen here.