This work is Pablo Picasso’s first large Cubist sculpture and represents the distinctive physiognomy of Fernande Olivier, the artist’s model and companion from 1905 until 1912. Before making the bust, Picasso produced countless drawings and gouaches to explore the specific form and structure of his subject’s facial features—her dark almond-shaped eyes, sharp nose, peaked upper lip, ﬂeshy chin, and braided topknot. He also looked to African and ancient Iberian sculpture to guide his translation of Fernande’s profile into the geometric language of Cubism. Converting his studies to three dimensions, Picasso simultaneously built up and cut away the clay as he worked, giving the surface a unifying rhythm of light and shadow. The resulting bronze retains the basic shape of Fernande’s head, though the surface and structure are broken up into faceted, fragmented forms.
The Art Institute’s bronze is one of a small edition produced by the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1910. It was sold in 1912 to the photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz, who published his own photographs of the work in his journal Camera Work.
Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.
Camera Work, special number (August 1912), n.p. (ill.), as Sculpture.
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso II:2 (Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 1942), p. 266, no. 573 (ill.), as Tete.
A. James Speyer, “Twentieth-Century European Painting and Sculpture,” Apollo 84 (September 1966), p. 222.
Milton W. Brown, The Story of the Armory Show (New York: Abbeville Publishers, 1988) pp. 75 (ill.), 302, no. 598.
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: Cubism (1907–1917), trans. by Susan Branyas, Richard-Lewis Rees, and Patrick Zabalbeascoa (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 1990), pp. 152–153 and 502. no. 433 (ill.).
James N. Wood, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1993), p. 248 (ill.)
James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 19 (ill.), as Head of Fernande Olivier.
Sarah Greenough, et. al., Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2001), pp. 124–125, cat. 22 (ill.).
James N. Wood and Debra N. Mancoff, Treasures from The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), p. 242 (ill.).
La epoca de Picasso: donaciones a los museos americanos (Santander: Fundación Marcelino Botín, 2004), pp. 43 and 246.
Enrique Mallen, The On-Line Picasso Project (http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/), no. 09:17 (ill.).
Stephanie D’Alessandro, Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917, exh. cat (Art Institute of Chicago, 2010), pp. 128-129, fig. 13c.
Ann Temkin and Anne Umland, eds., Picasso Sculpture (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015), pp. 58–59, pp. 68–69 (pl. 11).
New York, Armory of the 69th Infantry, International Exhibition of Modern Art, Feb. 15–Mar. 15, 1913, cat. 598, as Bust.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Stieglitz: His Collection, June 10–Aug. 31, 1947, cat. 6, as Head of Fernande Olivier.
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery of Art Interpretation: Presenting the Art Institute’s Picassos, Sept.–Dec. 1955, no cat.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Alfred Stieglitz and Modern Art in America,” Jan. 28–Apr. 22, 2001.
Bergen, Kunstmuseene i Bergen, Picasso : figur og bilde, Feb. 2–June 8, 2008.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde, Sept. 13, 2006–Jan. 7, 2007; Chicago, Art Institute, Feb. 17–May 13, 2007; Paris, Musée d’Orsay, June 18–Sept. 16, 2007 (Chicago only).
Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago, Oct. 6, 2013–Feb. 16, 2014, no cat. no.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Picasso Sculpture, Sept. 14, 2015–Feb. 7, 2016; Paris, Musée Picasso, Mar. 8-Aug. 28, 2016.
Ambroise Vollard (1867–1939), Paris, c. 1910–12; sold to Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946), New York, Jan. 15, 1912 [Temkin and Umland 2015]; Stieglitz Estate (Georgia O’Keefe (1887–1986), executor); given to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949.
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