Femme au Fauteuil: Dora Maar
Femme au Fauteuil: Dora Maar (Bloch 318)

1939 (April 19, Paris)

Aquatint and burin with scraper printed on Montval laid paper with Picasso watermark
From the edition of 59 of the second (final) state
Marina Picasso Collection oval stamp verso 
Inventory number recorded in the Picasso achives in Paris: INV21127 / JK 6672
Printed by Lacourière, 1942
Image: 11 3/4 x 9 3/8 inches
Sheet: 17 3/4 x 13 3/8 inches
(Bloch 318) (Baer 649.II.B.b)

Picasso had a difficult year in 1939. It began with the death of Picasso’s mother due to a fall on January 13. Barcelona, his childhood home, would soon be conquered by Franco, and tensions were building in other areas of Europe—WWII would break out in September, bringing anxiety of deportation and internment due to his status as a foreigner. He and Maar were both extremely distressed by these events. In the first few months of 1939, Picasso found solace in the reassuringly professional atmosphere of Lacourière’s studio. During this time, he created Femme au Tambourin—one of his undisputed masterworks in intaglio—and two versions of Femme au Fauteuil; the current etching is the second.

 

As has been noted by a number of scholars, a majority of Picasso’s depictions of Maar are not strictly portraits—rather, she seems to have been a mirror upon which he could reflect his own thoughts and emotions. She herself once said, “They’re all Picassos, not one is Dora Maar”.i The woman in this etching, seated in an armchair, seems utterly spent and lost in thought, with the weight of the world upon her. As noted by Brigitte Baer, the woman’s appearance is likely a combination of his mother and Maar—she is somewhat stocky and heavy, like Picasso’s mother, but has the younger woman’s features. Baer interprets this image to be an almost subconscious portrait of Picasso’s mother before her death. She was overseeing and protecting a full household against the Civil War, including a number of grandchildren, and frequently wrote to her son about the developments in Barcelona—describing starving children and burning churches. Further, she is thought to have died while seated in an armchair, and Picasso associated chairs with decline and mortality.ii


Picasso’s technique here also reflects and augments the agitation of the scene—it is heavily worked and covered with frenetic marks. He used a combination of several techniques, including line etching, aquatint, scraper and burin to render a sense of quiet chaos. The current impression is one of 59 of the second (final) state on Montval printed by Lacourière in 1942.


i As quoted by Deborah Wye in A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art [New York, 2010], 129
ii See Baer, “Where do they come from—Those Superb Paintings and Horrid Women of Picasso’s ‘War’?” in Stephen A. Nash, ed. Picasso and the War
Years, 1937-45 [ San Francisco: SF MoMA, 1998], 91-2