The Weeping Woman, I is an elaboration of one of the central figures in Picasso’s famous mural-size painting Guernica, executed some months earlier. Like the painting, the print was created in reaction to the bombing on April 26, 1937, of the defenseless town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The image is an emblem of the artist’s homeland, torn apart by that conflict, and, more universally, of the horrors of war.
The portrait also reflects Picasso’s conflicted love life, appearing to conflate the features of two women with whom he was then involved. Dora Maar, known for her volatile temper, is represented by the glossy black hair, tapered fingernails, and tearful state, in which Picasso often portrayed her. Marie-Thérèse Walter is referenced in the distinctive nose and forehead, features the artist frequently depicted in the 1930s. The image is composed of bulbous, contorted, and distended shapes and a veritable battlefield of tangled lines, heightening the sense of explosive emotion. Picasso also capitalized on the potential of etching and drypoint to create sharply incised details, such as nail-like tears and scissor-like fingers, which reinforce the notion of pain being inflicted. He accorded great significance to this large etching, which he developed and reworked through seven independent stages, or states. This is the seventh and final one.
Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
The Weeping Woman, I, a monumental 1937 etching in its seventh state, is one of Pablo Picasso’s greatest achievements in printmaking and perhaps in any medium. This is tied not only to its large size—unusual for an etching—but also to the fact that the artist strengthened the elaborate composition through seven separate stages, or states. An icon of catastrophic suffering, it reprises one of the central figures in Picasso's famous mural-size painting Guernica, made earlier the same year after the Basque town of Guernica, in northern Spain, was bombed at the behest of Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. The image also refers to the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, known for her glossy black hair and tapered fingernails, with whom Picasso had a tempestuous relationship.
Gallery label from New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, June 13, 2012–January 7, 2013.