Picasso Museum of Barcelona

Woman with Bonnet
Signed –Picasso- in the top right section
Paris, 1901
Oil on canvas
41 x 33 cm
Donated by Jacqueline Picasso, 1985
MPB 112.750

The Work

In spring 1901 Picasso took his second trip to Paris, setting up in the same studio where his unfortunate friend Carles Casagemas lived some months earlier. Between autumn 1901 and January 1902, the artist’s work sees a thematic and radical chromatic change. Afterwards, Picasso would state that thinking of his friend’s death led to him painting in blue.

Throughout his life, Picasso was captivated by taboo characters who would appear in major works. Saint-Lazare, a women’s prison and venereal disease hospital, located near Montmartre, was visited by Picasso on several occasions, according to the State Minister and one of the first collectors of the artist’s work Olivier Sainsière. Inspired by these women and their particular dress style, the artist created different paintings including Two Sisters, a Blue Period oil painting dating from 1902 and presently housed at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.

Woman with Bonnet belongs to this group of captives, victims of society, who Picasso took out of that sinister passages setting to place them in front of curtains or neutral backgrounds, making for timeless undefined spaces. The decontextualisation of the figures makes the sick and desperate women mistreated by life into women emanating enormous sensitivity and serenity.

Stylistically, the profiled silhouette figure connects with El Greco styling and mannerisms and Gauguin's simplification. This is also joined by the artistic use and technique of the decorous headdress – the Phrygian bonnet here. As well as the singular hat – white for syphilitics – the prisoner uniform includes large black-and-white striped blouses which Picasso usually substituted for blue habits. The paint layer is very thick with marked brushstrokes.

X-Radiograph

A version of this theme has been shown under x-ray on the work Blue Portrait of Sabartés (MPB 70.491). The x-ray allowed this painting to be seen as having been done on top of another where the head of a young woman appears with a white bonnet used by Saint-Lazare prisoners and patients. The canvas was moved from Paris to Barcelona at the beginning of 1902 by Picasso, who placed it in an ornamental frame at the Quatre Gats. At present, there are signs marking the outline of the old oval frame.