© Succession Picasso / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013
Portrait of Fernande Olivier
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 2110 (Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.)
65 × 55 cm
The Spanish village of Horta de Ebro, where the young Picasso spent the summer of 1909 with his girlfriend Fernande Olivier, is surrounded by barren mountains. It is here that the artist painted this revolutionary programmatic modern painting. His lover’s head seems to form part of the rocky landscape – blending in with its crystalline forms and the reduced colour palette consisting of no more than a few shades of green, grey, and brown. It was not the reproduction of the sitter’s individual features that the artist had in mind, but the creation of a new pictorial unity that is not an attribute of the object – the woman’s face – but only emerges in the act of artistic creation and perception. By decomposing the large mass into small cubic forms and rearranging them on the picture plane, the artist has created a masterpiece of analytical Cubism. At almost the same time that he painted this Frankfurt portrait, in the autumn of 1909, Picasso executed the bronze sculpture Tête. The latter is a direct translation of the formal language developed in the painting into the three-dimensional medium of sculpture.