Weeping woman (1937)
oil on canvas
55.2 x 46.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased by donors of The Art Foundation of Victoria, with the assistance of the Jack and Genia Liberman family, Founder Benefactor, 1986
© Pablo Picasso/Sussession Pablo Picasso. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

Pablo Picasso

Weeping woman

Pablo Picasso is recognised as one of the most important figures in 20th century western art. He created more than 20,000 artworks in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and ceramics.

Picasso showed an early talent for art, and made lifelike portraits as a teenager. However, after settling in Paris in his early twenties he adopted more modern approaches to making art. Between 1908 and 1911 he and fellow artist Georges Braque ‘invented’ a style called Cubism which took a radical, new approach to the representation of space and form.

In 1937, Picasso completed his iconic mural Guernica, a chilling depiction of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war, which resulted in the slaughter of many defenceless civilians. 

Picasso painted Weeping woman in October 1937 only a few months after he completed the mural. It is one of a series of images of weeping women that have been linked to the figure of a grieving mother in Guernica who clasps her dead child to her chest.   

Weeping woman is an iconic image of unspeakable grief and pain, representing universal suffering. The fragmented features and the use of acid green and purple heighten the painting’s emotional intensity.

The model for the Weeping woman was Picasso’s partner Dora Maar, a passionate, strong and intelligent woman. The painting is also often seen as reflecting their complex and often stormy relationship.

Classroom discussion:

  • Describe how Picasso has represented the figure of a woman in Weeping woman. How does her appearance differ from that of a real woman? Consider the shapes, lines, colours and viewpoint used.
  • Based on your understanding of the time in which Picasso created this painting, suggest why he might have represented the woman in this way.

T. Gott in T. Gott, L. Benson & contributors, 20th Century Painting and Sculpture in the International Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.