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Tête de femme (Fernande)
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About the item

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)\nTête de femme (Fernande)\nsigned 'Picasso' (on the back of the neck)\nbronze with dark brown patina\nHeight: 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.)\nOriginal clay model executed in autumn, 1909; this bronze version cast in a small edition for Ambroise Vollard shortly thereafter
US
NY, US
US

notes

Picasso's Tête de femme (Fernande) is one of the great icons in the history of modernist sculpture. If one looks at the development of Picasso's work in sculpture in totality, it becomes clear that this sculpture occupies a place of its own. One of the very first works executed in the fall of 1909 upon his return from a sojourn in Horta, Spain, Tête de femme (Fernande) reveals that Picasso's efforts in three-dimensional volumes had matured to an unprecedented level of audacity and complexity. This trip to Horta, taken with his companion Fernande Olivier, held a critical importance for the development of the artist's career and has been regarded by many critics and historians as Picasso's arch-cubist moment.

Picasso had known Fernande since 1904. They met when he moved into the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre, where she also lived. A six year relationship ensued, and although it had its ups and downs, Picasso's attachment and loyalty to Fernande cannot be doubted. Fernande Olivier was, as one can judge from photographs, a beautiful woman, and, being aware of her assets, she had never been afraid of making use of her charm; Picasso, of course, followed much the same path in his own way. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that the relationship between the artist and Fernande was not sincere.

In the summer of 1909 (shortly before the present sculpture was executed), Fernande fell ill with a kidney disorder. Picasso, albeit grumpily, stayed by Fernande's bedside throughout her ordeal. The particular intensity of the physical features, and the furrows that seem to have been chiseled into the flesh of the model (and in Tête de femme [Fernande]) can be read as indications of the strains imposed on Fernande during this period. The intense physical presence of the sculpture betrays the equally intense interchange between the artist and his model that was at the source of this work.

In fact, Tête de femme (Fernande) can be regarded as the culmination of Picasso's artistic interpretation of his companion. Two particularities deserve mention: Fernande was taller than the artist: Picasso was, therefore, probably accustomed to looking up towards her, as the pose of the face gently inclined downwards belies (fig. 1). As previous representations of Fernande prove, Picasso seems to have been fascinated by every aspect, every angle of Fernande's head: the result of this panoptic vision, of this spherical gaze, is that the sculpture should be looked at from every possible vantage point with the caveat that there is almost no point that dominates any other. Studies the artist executed for this sculpture testify to this fact (figs. 2 and 3). No hierarchical arrangement here dictates the way one should look at this sculpture: everything counts.

Picasso first modeled the present work in clay. After casting it in plaster, he sliced the facets with a blade to achieve the desired effects. As John Richardson has recounted, "The head bears out the claim [Picasso] made some years later that there were enough specifications in cubist paintings for an exact three-dimensional equivalent to be made" (J. Richardson, op. cit., p. 139). This enumeration of strong emotional and physical marks embues Tête de femme (Fernande) with continuously haunting qualities.

As Roland Penrose has commented, "Cubism can be described as a movement among painters toward the sculptor's three-dimensional problems" (R. Penrose, op. cit., p. 19). In Tête de femme (Fernande), the artist reached a critical moment in his career when he articulates the two languages of painting and sculpture simultaneously, yet independently of each other (fig. 4). One could say that by 1909, Picasso is a sculptor who has become a painter, and a painter who has become a sculptor. He has become completely bilingual. In fact, Picasso's evolution in his art can largely be read as the accumulative acquisitions of different languages through and through.

The importance of this piece within the history of modernism cannot be understated. Tête de femme (Fernande) was published, and very prominently featured, only a few years after its creation in a seminal art publication that laid the ground for the emergence of modernism in America: Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work. This was, furthermore, part of a double-feature presentation written by "an American resident in Paris" who was no less than Gertrude Stein herself. In this special edition of Camera Work, Stein wrote two articles: one on Picasso, and one on Matisse.

Besides Cézanne on whom Picasso almost appeared to model himself in Horta by painting apples, portraits of his companion and mountains Matisse was unquestionably the other major presence in Picasso's mind at the time and vice versa. Tête de femme (Fernande) was reproduced in Camera Work twice once in profile, and once frontally Stein and Stieglitz having understood perfectly well the importance of rotating around this work in order to grasp its significance. Matisse, on the other hand, was represented in Stein's article with two sculptures: Nu allongé, 1906, and Figure décorative, 1908. The scene was thus being set, not only for the critical dialogue between Picasso and Matisse that was going to evolve through the next decades, but also for the sudden emergence of a vast wave of modern European art to be exhibited in New York, with considerable noise, only a few months later at the legendary Armory show.

The present work is one from a small edition cast in bronze under the direction of the dealer Ambroise Vollard shortly after its inception. A further numbered edition of nine was cast in 1959-1960 by the Valsuani foundry under the direction of Heinz Berggruen. Werner Spies, in his catalogue raisonné of the artist's sculptural work, indicates an intermediary plaster and two bronze editions. Josep Palau i Fabre in his Picasso cubisme (1907-1917), indicates an original fired clay model.

(fig. 1) Fernande Olivier, 1905.

(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Etude pour 'Tête de femme (Fernande)', 1909.

© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Femme à la tête inclinée, 1906.

© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme, 1909.

The Art Institute of Chicago, formerly in the Collection of René Gaffé.

© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

title

Tête de femme (Fernande)

prelot

THE COLLECTION OF RENÉ GAFFÉ

Property from the Estate of Madame René Gaffé

signed

Signed 'Picasso' (on the back of the neck)

creator

Pablo Picasso

dimensions

Height: 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.)

literature

G. Stein, "Pablo Picasso", Camera Work, August 1912, pp. 29-30 (another cast illustrated, pp. 36-37).

C. Zervos, "Sculptures des peintres d'aujourd'hui", Cahiers d'Art, vol. 7, 1928, p. 286 (another cast illustrated).

A.H. Barr, Jr., Picasso, Fifty Years of his Art, New York, 1946, p. 69 (another cast illustrated).

R. Gaffé, "Sculpteur, Picasso?", Artes, vol. 2 (nos. 3-4), 1947-1948, pp. 36-37.

A.C. Ritchie, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1952, pp. 130-131 (another cast illustrated).

W. Boeck and J. Sabartés, Picasso, Stuttgart, 1955, p. 426, no. 54 (plaster version illustrated).

C. Gideon-Welcker, Contemporary Sculpture, An Evolution in Volume and Space, New York, 1955, pp. 40-41 (another cast illustrated).

J. Golding, Cubism: A History and an Analysis, 1907-1914, New York, 1959, pp. 81-83 and 169 (another cast illustrated, fig. 6).

C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1961, vol. 2** (Oeuvres de 1912 à 1917), no. 573 (another cast illustrated, pl. 266; titled Tête).

F. Licht, Sculpture, 19th and 20th Century, London, 1967, no. 219 (another cast illustrated).

R. Goldwater, What is Modern Sculpture, New York, 1969, pp. 42-43 and 45 (another cast illustrated, p. 42).

W. Spies, Sculpture by Picasso with a Catalogue of the Works, London, 1971, p. 302, no. 24 (another cast illustrated, pp. 42-43).

A.E. Elsen, Origins of Modern Sculpture: Pioneers and Premises, New York, 1974, pp. 46-47 (another cast illustrated, p. 46, fig. 62).

R. Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth Century Art, New York, 1976, p. 343, no. 188 (another cast illustrated, pl. 188).

W. Spies and C. Piot, Picasso, Das plastische Werk, Bonn, 1983, p. 373, no. 24 (another cast illustrated, pp. 48-49 and 327).

H.H. Arnason, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography, New York, 1986, p. 152 (another cast illustrated, fig. 217).

A.M. Hammacher, Modern Sculpture, Tradition and Innovation, New York, 1988, p. 102 (another cast illustrated, pl. 108).

J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso cubisme (1907-1917), Paris, 1990, p. 152, no. 433 (another cast illustrated).

C.-P. Warncke, Pablo Picasso 1881-1973, Cologne, 1991, vol. I, p. 184 (another cast illustrated).

A. Podoksik, Pablo Picasso, The Creative Eye (from 1881-1914), Bournemouth, 1996, p. 136 (another cast illustrated).

J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, 1907-1917, London, 1996, vol. II, pp. 138 and 141 (plaster version and another cast illustrated).

W. Spies and C. Piot, "Catalogue raisonné des sculptures", in Picasso Sculpture, exh. cat., Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2000, p. 395, no. 24(II) (another cast illustrated, p. 347).

provenance

Ambroise Vollard, Paris.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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