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Pablo Picasso. Three Women at the Spring. Fontainebleau, summer 1921

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Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)

Three Women at the Spring

Fontainebleau, summer 1921
Oil on canvas
6' 8 1/4" x 68 1/2" (203.9 x 174 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Audio Program excerpt

Matisse Picasso

, February 13 - May 19, 2003

Curator, Kirk Varnedoe: When you look at Picasso's Three Women at the Spring this represents the embodiment of what one calls the return to order—the idea that after World War I, French society wanted to reestablish its roots with the grand tradition and a kind of solid, reassuring, sculptural vision of the human figure rooted in classicism. It was an art of reassurance, of regrounding after the experimentation of the teens. And yet when you look at this picture, it's not really a conservative picture—the tubular nature of the arms, the large abstract rhythms of the figures are very much a legacy of his more radical work.

Remember again that this is painted exactly in the same summer that he paints The Three Musicians. Unlike Matisse, Picasso is happy working in two extremes virtually simultaneously, painting a picture of strong Cubist abstraction on the one hand,and seemingly full bodied sculptural realism on the other.

Curator, John Elderfield: Yes, it's impossible to imagine Matisse doing this, isn't it? For Matisse the idea that a serious artist could paint pictures in two different styles at the same time would be incomprehensible [...].

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