Pablo Picasso


Born in Málaga, Spain, on October 25, 1881, Pablo Picasso is still considered nowadays one of the most famous and influential artists of all time. Son of a drawing professor, Picasso was initiated into art as a child and completed his education in the stimulating Barcelona. In 1901 he went to Paris for the first time, attracted by the artistic and intellectual ferment of the Montmartre and Montparnasse neighborhoods, and four years later he settled permanently in the French capital. In 1907 Picasso produced one of his most important works Les Demoiselles d’Avignon: it is the birth act of Cubism, an avant-garde movement he founded with Georges Braque (1882-1963) that consists of the geometric decomposition of the image and its reconstruction in an interpenetration between planes and points of view. In 1937, at the Universal Exhibition in Paris Picasso presented the work for which he is perhaps most famous, Guernica. The gigantic canvas (three and a half meters high and nearly eight meters long) denounces the horror of war showing the world the destruction of the small town of Guernica and its inhabitants that occurred on April 26, 1937, by an aerial bombardment by the Franco allies. At Picasso’s own request, the work was exhibited and kept by the MoMA in New York and was delivered to Spain only in 1981, eight years after the artist’s death and in a Spain free of Francisco Franco’s regime. 

Throughout his long life, spent mostly in France, Picasso never stopped experimenting with art, producing more than one hundred and fifty thousand works including paintings, drawings, ceramics, collages and graphic works of various kinds. 


In the Carlon Collection is a 1943 portrait executed in oil on paper entitled Tête de femme. The woman portrayed with extreme formal simplification is Dora Maar (1907-1997), Picasso’s companion in the years between 1935 and 1943. It was Dora herself who immortalized in a series of famous photographs the creative process that led to the creation of Guernica, and Picasso urged her to explore the universe of painting. Following the end of their relationship, Dora faced a period of long depression, becoming a patient of psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan. Her output as a photographer, painter, and poet, neglected because of the fame of her relationship with Picasso, was rediscovered only after his death. Gifted with a very high sensitivity she adopted an abstract artistic language in a process of healing and inner rebirth.


Françoise Gilot (1921-2023), on the other hand, is the protagonist of a second Picasso portrait in the collection entitled Femme assise. The work, dated 1953, depicts the painter’s very young companion in such a cubist breakdown that she looks like a sphinx, a creature at the same time terrifying and fascinating. The relationship between the two began in 1943 when Picasso was 61 and Françoise just 21 and lasted for the next ten years. An inspirational muse for many portraits, Picasso lived the joie de vivre with Françoise and from their relationship were born their children Claude and Paloma. Of all the painter’s loves, Françoise was the only one who decided to leave him “before she was destroyed,” as she herself admitted, thus allowing herself to flourish as an autonomous artist, out of the shadow of Picasso. Her artistic career took place mostly in New York, where she passed away at over a hundred years of age.