Prints and Drawings
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Pablo Picasso, Spanish, active France, 1881–1973
Subject: Fernande Olivier, French, 1881–1966

Head of a Woman


Red gouache and black India ink

sheet: 63.5 × 47.5 cm (25 × 18 11/16 in.)
Gift of Katherine S. Dreier to the Collection Société Anonyme
This powerful drawing is one of an extensive series of portraits of Picasso’s partner Fernande Olivier, whom he met in Paris in 1904. Earlier portraits reveal her recognizable features, though Picasso’s interest soon moved on to a more audacious form of primitivism, especially after he saw an exhibition of Iberian art from Osuna that opened at the Louvre in the spring of 1906. After seeing these works, Picasso famously abstracted Gertrude Stein’s physiognomy in his 1906 portrait of her. Picasso’s friends, the poets Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon, were especially enthusiastic admirers of what they called “barbaric art,” and Apollinaire and Picasso began to collect African art. For Picasso, this was the necessary route to the birth of Cubism, a movement that transformed modern art by taking radical simplification much further, as a new and highly subversive language.
Made in France
20th century
Works on Paper - Drawings and Watercolors

Washington Square Gallery, until 1915 [?]; John Quinn Collection; from which purchased in 1927 by Marcel Duchamp; Collection Société Anonyme, until 1949; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Susan Greenberg Fisher et al., Picasso and the Allure of Language, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009), 38–46, no. 3, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.