Head of a Woman

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France)
Oil and charcoal on canvas
21 3/4 x 13 1/4 in. (55.2 x 33.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 906
With one continuous black line, Picasso drew this image reminiscent of a misshapen boomerang. He then added details that evoke a ferocious female seen in profile: two oddly shaped eyes, a set of tiny nostrils, three hairs, and four nails for teeth. This work belongs to a series of sixteen paintings of similarly terrifying women. The context was the irreverence fostered by Picasso's Surrealist friends, but the subject is his deteriorating marriage to the Russian dancer Olga Kokhlova, who, despairing over Picasso's loss of interest, had become emotionally unstable. Picasso had by that time already met his next lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, although Olga would not know it until 1935.
Inscription: Signed (upper right): Picasso
[Galerie Pierre (Pierre Loeb), Paris, by 1938; probably sold to Paalen, possibly by exchange]; Wolfgang Paalen, Mexico City; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (by the 1940s–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)

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Kyoto. National Museum of Modern Art. "Pikaso/Picasso," July 10–August 2, 1964, no. 39.

Nagoya. Prefectural Museum of Art. "Pikaso/Picasso," August 8–18, 1964, no. 39.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 179).

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar," February 10–May 10, 1994, unnumbered cat. (fig. 96).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar," June–September 14, 1994, unnumbered cat.

London. Tate Modern. "Surrealism: Desire Unbound," September 20, 2001–January 1, 2002, unnumbered cat. (fig. 266; as "The Scream").

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Herschel Chipp and Alan Wofsy, ed. The Picasso Project: Picasso's Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture, A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885-1973. Vol. 4, Toward Surrealism, 1925–1929. San Francisco, 1996, pp. xvi, 224, no. 27–070, ill.

William S. Lieberman. "Donation Gelman: l'École de Paris au Metropolitan." Connaissance des arts no. 554 (October 1998), p. 106.

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Sabine Rewald in "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1999–2000." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58 (Fall 2000), p. 59, ill.

Anne Baldassari in Picasso surreal = Picasso surréaliste = The Surrealist Picasso. Ed. Anne Baldassari. Exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Paris, 2005, pp. 218–19, fig. 88 [see Ref. Éluard 1927], erroneously called "Harlequin".

Anne Baldassari. Bacon–Picasso: The Life of Images. Exh. cat., Musée Picasso. Paris, 2005, pp. 110–12 n. 237, fig. 103.