La femme au jardin (Woman in the Garden)

Pablo Picasso (Pablo Ruiz Picasso)

Malaga, Spain, 1881 - Mougins, France, 1973

In the late 1920s a technique somewhat similar to assemblage – which Picasso had already used to create his 1912 Cubist constructions in cardboard and wood – enabled the artist to go deeper into the constructive process with a new material – iron – with the help of his friend and compatriot, Catalan sculptor Julio González. From then on, Picasso’s approach to sculpture became freer as he made use of found elements and a variety of materials from González’s studio, assembling them by forging and welding, taking full advantage of his friend’s skills. The work of both sculptors forms part of the origins of the modern tradition of iron sculpture, which was a whole new language challenging the boundaries between drawing and volume. This fairly large sculpture was conceived as a homage to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, a friend of Picasso’s. In 1929 the artist made the white painted iron version in the Musée Picasso in Paris, then later commissioned González to make a version in bronze, a one-off now in the Museo Reina Sofía. The work was created by welding the pieces of cast bronze, and varies in certain details from the original version. Picasso wanted this piece in his garden at the Château de Boisgeloup, where it was photographed by Brassaï in 1932.
Described by Julio González as “linear and transparent”, the sculpture is a plastic, spatial synthesis of concepts inherited from Cubism, attempting a simultaneous and comprehensive view of the figure through the presence of emptiness. Found or invented elements define the large figure seated on the sharp triangular base: the triangular face, the open vertical mouth, the wind-blown hair of blade-like sharpened metal strands and the pointed anatomical elements such as the breast or the stomach, made from a kind of pan or boiler casing. This metaphorical anatomy is rounded off by large philodendron leaves, a naturalistic, plant-based culmination in direct contrast to the large skeletal iron figure.

Carmen Fernández Aparicio