Femme à la montre (Woman with a Watch) is a classic example of Pablo Picasso’s highly prized works from 1932. The subject of this painting, Marie-Thérèse Walter, is among his most revered. Between 1927 and 1937 he made countless pictures of Walter, who was his lover at the time and is known as his “golden muse.” The subject of a current museum survey in London—the year 1932—was a particularly fruitful year in Picasso’s production. Most of the works produced in that year are in the collections of major museums in the world’s largest capitals; PAMM is fortunate to be able to present this important work on loan from a private collector.
Born in 1881 in Málaga, Spain, Picasso created the distinct look and line in his paintings and drawings beginning in the early 1900s in Barcelona, and then in Paris, where he settled for good in 1904. The artist appropriated and invented styles from the beginning of the 20th century until his death in 1973, constantly challenging himself and other artists to create something truly new in the spirit of modernism. Influenced by African art he encountered in Paris, Picasso, with fellow painter Georges Braque, originated the style known as Cubism, characterized by geometric shapes that often contort an object or figure as if it is being seen from many different angles at once. He was also an integral part of the foundation of Surrealism, while always working from a representational, tangible image. By any account, Picasso was a prodigious artist and perhaps the most influential of the 20th century. It is estimated that he made 50,000 artworks in his lifetime. Yet it is the quality of his work that has dictated his dedicated place in art history.
Picasso’s voluptuous and sensual pictures of Walter mark a departure from his Cubism phase. This portrait shows the young woman from the front and side, more or less clothed, unlike many of the nudes he made of her. An exposed breast perhaps hints at the erotic quality of many of his portraits of her. Here, he synthesizes the softness of the figure and the hardness of the chair into one full picture. But, it is her single, unmistakably clear eye that gazes out at us that suggests the inner life of the sitter, lover, and muse.
Picasso’s Femme à la montre (1932) is on loan from Emily Fisher Landau. The exhibition of this work of art has been made possible in part by the generous support of Leslie and Greg Ferrero.
Reflecting on Picasso's Legacy at PAMMWatch