Picasso in Fontainebleau

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*Three Women at the Spring*

Pablo Picasso. Three Women at the Spring. 1921 381

Oil on canvas, 72 1/4" x 68 1/2" (203.9 x 174 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil. © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Anne Umland:  We’re standing in front of one of two enormous images that depict three women gathered around a rocky structure or spring. And if you turn around, you can see on the wall across the way the large red chalk version of the same subject.

Conservator, Anny Aviram: He came to this final version by doing many preparatory paintings and drawings where he moved the women in different positions. Then he comes back to this final version where the focus is the play of hands in the center of the painting.

My name is Anny Aviram. I’m a paintings conservator.

The other interesting thing is that you would think that the woman in the center has her palm up so that water flows into her hand, but we took an x-ray, and we saw that there was no water.

Anne Umland: I think that really heightens the mystery of the work.

If you let your eye wander down below the hands, there’s rivulets and pools and drips. Just look at the seated figure on the right and the lower half of her body, how the knee on the right side is opaque and then the outstretched leg to the left, that garment is translucent.

Anny Aviram: The bottom feet almost appear to be like they’re inside water. They have no shape.

Anne Umland: It’s as though Picasso is not representing water, he is creating the effect of water with the way that he manipulates his paint.