This larger-than-life bust portrait of Dora Maar is one of Picasso's greatest achievements in the medium of sculpture. At just over three-quarters of a meter high, it conveys the model's strength of character and imposing presence as a figure in Picasso's life during the war years. It is also one of the artist's most respectful and idealized portrayals of Dora (see fig. 3 & 7), rendered without any of the abstraction that characterized his more menacing depictions of her as the Weeping Woman. Dora's likeness here resembles that of a Greco-Roman goddess, more noble than any sculptural depiction of the other women in Picasso's life (see fig. 6). As Barbara Thiemann and Evelyn Weiss commented about this figure, "This strong, spiritualized head, with its powerful aura of human dignity and its remoteness from violence and subjugations, seems to convey a contrast, a kind of inner resistance. It recalls the stoical serenity of the gods of the ancient world" (Barbara Thiemann and Evelyn Weiss in Picasso, The Ludwig Collection (exhibition catalogue), op. cit.).
Picasso created Tête de Femme (Dora Maar) in 1941 in his studio on the rue des Grands Augustins in Paris (see figs. 1 & 4). He had relocated many of his sculptures from Boisgeloup to this space in the beginning of the year, as it was sizable enough to accommodate the sequence of busts of Marie-Thérèse from a decade earlier (see fig. 5). This was the same studio where he had painted his epic Guernica in 1937. Back then, Dora made a series of photographs of his progress on the painting, and her work as a photographer impressed Picasso enough for him to think of her as a fellow artist. He and Dora continued to work side by side in this studio throughout the occupation, mainly because their freedom to travel was curtailed as a consequence of the war. During those first few months together Picasso began work on a series of monumental sculpture, including this bust and Man with a Sheep. Picasso created a first version of Tête de femme in which he rendered the figure with a hat (see fig. 2). He eventually refined the sculpture to form the present image, which he would later cast in bronze after the war when metal was more readily available.
Although Dora would come to be immortalized in Picasso's art in jarring and often monstrous representations, this sculpture presents her with a sense of dignity and serenity that is rarely associated with Picasso's most flamboyant mistress. This sculpture was preceded by a handful of mild-mannered drawings and paintings of her image, but the sheer size of this work most forcefully conveys the resilience of her persona. Picasso often said that, for him, Dora was the embodiment of the war. Through her image he channeled his own frustrations and anxiety (see fig. 9), and these sentiments eventually spilled over into their real-life relationship. But in this representation, Picasso
depicts Dora as the stoic woman that she was--ever silent and enduring despite the frustrations she suffered during this most tense period in history.
Andreas Franzke has likened the present work to Rodin's similarly stoic portrait of Pierre de Wiessant, but with the following distinctions: "Rodin presents the head as if severed from its body, like an impressive fragment which the beholder involuntarily associates with a body, whereas Picasso elevates his head into a monument. He places it on a plinth. By growing organically out of a modeled block devoid of any allusion to the upper part of the body, the head quite automatically became an autonomous, wholly self-contained cipher. No longer the sculptural quotation of a literary idea, superbly monumental though Rodin's formulation was, it is a 'head monument' in its own right, and one that crystallizes the spiritual force of Picasso's artistic potency..." (Franzke, op. cit., p. 162).
Picasso conceived the present sculpture first in plaster and then had it cast in bronze in an edition of four in the 1950s. Two of these casts were completed at the Valsuani foundry, and the other two at the Susse Foundry in 1958. One of the bronzes was selected as a public monument for the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Over the years Picasso had submitted several ideas for a sculpture to commemorate his friend, but all of his proposals had been rejected on the basis that they were too abstract. This portrait of Dora Maar, however, was finally accepted and installed in the graveyard behind the church of St-Germain-des-Prés. That bronze cast was stolen from the site and subsequently recovered two years later. The original plaster of Tête de Femme (Dora Maar) is currently in the collection of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, and the last remaining two bronzes are in the collection of the Beyeler Foundation and in a private collection. The present work belonged to the artist's granddaughter Marina (the daughter of Paulo), who featured it in the traveling exhibition of her collection in the 1980s.
Fig. 1, Picasso in his studio on the rue des Grands Augustins, Paris, with the plaster casts of the L'Homme au mouton, Le Chat and Tête de femme (Dora Maar). Photograph by Brassaï
Fig. 2, Picasso in his studio with the first version of this sculpture
Fig. 3, Photograph of Dora Maar, circa 1940
Fig. 4, Picasso's studio in 1941, Photograph Musée Picasso, Paris
Fig. 5, Pablo Picasso, Buste de Marie-Thérèse, 1931, bronze, Musée Picasso, Paris
Fig. 6, Pablo Picasso, Tête de Femme (Fernande), 1909, bronze, Musée Picasso, Paris
Fig. 7, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1936, photograph by Man Ray
Fig. 8, Dora Maar in profile, March 1936. Photograph Musée Picasso, Paris
Fig. 9, Pablo Picasso, Le Chandail jaune (Dora Maar), October 31, 1939, oil on canvas, Berggruen Collection, Geneva
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Picasso, Opere dal 1895 al 1971, 1981, no. 261
Height: 31 ½ in. 80 cm
Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso, New York, 1971, no. 197, illustration of another cast pp. 156-57
Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1980, illustration of another cast p. 369
Andreas Franzke, Skulpturen und Objekte von Malern des 20. Jahrhunderts, Cologne, 1982, discussed p. 160
Picasso der Maler und seine Modelle (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1986, no. 104, illustration of another cast
Edward Quinn and Pierre Daix, The Private Picasso, New York, 1987, illustrations of another cast pp. 153, 154, 155, 197, 202 and 203
David Douglas Duncan, Picasso and Jacqueline, New York, 1988, illustrations of another cast pp. 38, 45, 47, 55, 57, 70, 84, 114, 120, 127, 141, 170 and 171
Colección Beyeler (exhibition catalogue), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1989, another cast discussed p. 54
Rainer Speck, "Apollinaire in Köln," Bilderstreit, Cologne, 1989, another cast discussed p. 445
Picasso, The Ludwig Collection (exhibition catalogue), Museu Picasso, Barcelona; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1993, illustration of the plaster
Fondation Beyeler (exhibition catalogue), Museum in Berowerpark, Riehen, Basel, 1997, no. 26, illustration of another cast
Werner Spies, Picasso, The Sculptures, Stuttgart, 2000, no. 197, illustration of the plaster p. 219 and of another cast p. 361
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, Nazi Occupation, 1940-1944, San Francisco, 1999, no. 41-315, this cast illustrated p. 109
Anne Baldassari, The Surrealist Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Basel, 2005, illustration of another cast p. 156
Anne Baldassari, Picasso, Love and War, 1935-1945 (exhibition catalogue), Musée Picasso, Paris, 2006, illustration of another cast p. 271
Picasso, Musas y modelos (exhibition catalogue), Museo Picasso, Málaga, 2006-07, no. 26, illustration of another cast
Estate of the artist
Marina Picasso (inherited from the above)
Jan Krugier, Geneva
Acquired from the above by the present owner