Pablo Picasso: Weeping Woman

The Weeping Woman. Picasso. 1937.

One of the worst atrocities of the Spanish Civil War was the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German air force. The bombings started many fires, spreading quickly due to wooden buildings then following the destruction of roads and bridges making it impossible for the people of Guernica to escape.

Picasso, who was never interested in politics responded to the massacre by painting the vast mural Guernica, after his mother wrote to him from Barcelona that smoke from the burning city were making her eyes water.

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“Guernica” is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas completed in June 1937. The painting, which uses a palette of grey, black and whites, is a powerful anti-war painting.

It stands 11 ft 5 inches tall conveying the impact of violence and chaos. The absence of colour may represent a melancholy atmosphere, reflecting the diluted period of hope and the devastation of war.

The Weeping Woman was just one of the numerous paintings created in response to the catastrophe and the one to cause the most reputation.

It is a study of how much pain can be communicated by a human face. It has features of a specific person, Dora maar, whom Picasso described as ‘’always weeping’’ and who he used to paint the “Weeping Woman”.

There is a clear depiction of The Mater Dolorosa (The Weeping Virgin) in Picasso’s Weeping Woman. It is a traditional image in Spanish art, representing in sculptures of a woman with glass tears, which is also depicted in the flows of tears that descend from the woman’s right ear.

The “Mater Dolorosa” is conveyed in a variety of traditional media, one being in churches with bright, luminous hues that are also reflected in Picasso’s “Weeping Woman”. Perhaps to refer to the religious glass stained windows and the context of a deficiency of peace and universal message of suffering in comparison to Guernica.

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I had to replicate the Weeping Woman with a variety of materials, Black and White Oil Pastel and Chalk, coloured Oil Pastels and Watercolours.

Overall I’m pleased with the outcome, however I found watercolour to be the most difficult. I had to use other material such as black permanent marker to distinguish the darker tones of the piece as it blended quickly into other colours. I discovered that the watercolours were the weakest in vibrancy compared to the coloured oil pastels, although gave the piece an appearance of age which I found appealing due to the artist I was replicating.

My favourite medium was chalk as it allowed me to experiment on black paper, allowing me to gain the experience of highlighting using white rather than shade with pencils on paper.

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