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Bust of a Woman

Bust of a Woman, 1923

Pablo Picasso
Spanish, 1881-1973
Oil with fixed black chalk on canvas
39-1/4 x 32 in. (99.7 x 81.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On view

In the years following the First World War—a time of bewildering flux throughout Europe—Picasso participated in a broader cultural phenomenon known as the rappel à l’ordre (call to order). Like many other radical artists of the previous decade, he now turned to classical tradition in search of a stable aesthetic vocabulary; the result was a body of work emphasizing tone over color, and featuring figures that seemed carved from light and shadow. This picture—not really a painting at all, but a monumental drawing in black chalk on prepared canvas—affords a prime example. Blending, stumping, and erasing his dry medium, Picasso conjured the pensive, statuesque figure from a penumbra of chalk.

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