Collection 1880s–1940s

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*Head of a Woman*

Pablo Picasso. Head of a Woman. 1932 544

Plaster, 52 1/2 x 25 5/8 x 28" (133.4 x 65 x 71.1 cm). Gift of Jacqueline Picasso in honor of the Museum's continuous commitment to Pablo Picasso's art. © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Anne Umland: Picasso's project in the early 1930s was to invent a new way of making figurative sculptures. And this is one of his most monumental attempts at just that.

Narrator: Curator Anne Umland:

Anne Umland: I think there's a real sense, as you circle it, of the way that different parts can exchange identity. So that a nose becomes a forehead, or what could be read as a swatch of hair that runs along the back is also the back part of the skull, or the way that the profile changes as you circumnavigate it.

And at this point, Picasso has returned to modeling – to re-engaging with that most traditional of sculptural practices and of making objects in the round, but doing so while inventing a very different, sensual type of bodily form and using plaster as opposed to clay.

Plaster is a very light material. It's one that you can manipulate in a number of ways quite freely. So you can model it. You can carve it. You can incise into it. It dries quickly. Once it's dry, you can add to it. And all of those qualities were perfectly suited to Picasso's very improvisatory way of working and his love of instant gratification – like, "I want to change this, so I'm going to do it now." And plaster let him do that.