Between spring and winter 1909, Picasso executed more than sixty portraits of his companion, Fernande Olivier. These works – produced in a variety of formats and mediums – exhibit a range of artistic approaches dedicated to a single subject that stands out in the history of portraiture. Even more significant, this series of works coincided with the invention of Cubism. Published to accompany a major exhibition originating at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, this richly illustrated volume illuminates Picasso’s radical reformulation of human physiognomy.
Containing eighty-two color illustrations and sixty-eight duotones, the catalogue explores the Fernande portraits and related works as a single oeuvre culminating in the magnificent Head of a Woman (Fernande) – one of Picasso’s rare pre-1912 excursions into sculpture. By so doing, it allows us to examine Picasso’s process in an unprecedented fashion. What emerges is a new picture of the artist pursuing his subject with obsessive repetition and struggling to resolve artistic problems during a time of crisis in his work. Also included are previously unpublished studio photographs that offer further insight into the conceptual nature of the artist’s process. The text narrates the internal development of the Fernande portrait series, situates it within the broader history of representation, and considers the powerful impact of Cézanne on Picasso’s work during this period.
Seizing a single extended moment in the early history of Cubism, this catalogue reveals Cubism’s great achievement – its startling invention, its remarkable expressive power, and its profound formal and psychological implications for modern art.