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Woman in a Hat with Flowers

Pablo Picasso
Woman in a Hat with Flowers, 1944
oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
Gift of Nahum and Sheila Gelber, Montreal, 1997
© Estate of Pablo Picasso (Paris) / SODRAC (Montréal)

Throughout his long and very innovative career, Pablo Picasso had a predilection for using people close to him as the subjects in his paintings. In the fall of 1935, he was introduced to the Surrealist photographer and painter Dora Maar. She became his companion until the mid-1940s and is most certainly the subject of Woman in a Hat with Flowers. During this period of the artist's work, which coincided with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in the summer of 1936 and lasted through to the end of World War II, Maar was often depicted as a weeping woman. In this guise, she became a poignant symbol of the misery and horror of the war years. In this painting, however, her facial distortions, seen simultaneously in profile and frontal views, seem relatively mild and playful. This shift to a less tortured image may indicate Picasso's mood, which was ebullient - inspired, no doubt, by the rehearsals of his play Desire Caught by the Tail which were taking place in his studio at the time. Dora Maar was cast as "skinny anguish."

Woman in a Hat with Flowers, painted in 1944, is a strong and colourful work that not only complements our more serene still-life painting The Small Table of 1919, but dramatically counterpoints Picasso's very different treatment of the same subject in our print of the Weeping Woman of 1937.