Weeping Woman Picasso Essay

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996.To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.

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Now, for the first time, some of Picasso's most personal works from these years are the subject of their own show.

"Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Therese Walter and Dora Maar," organized by Judi Freeman for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has come to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, albeit in a substantially enlarged and reconfigured form.

By the standards of many Picasso shows, it is rather small -- only 84 works -- but it is nonetheless exciting and revealing.

Like most Picasso shows, it has something for everyone, and then some.

Olga is reduced to an animalistic abstraction, a hard-edged monster with a jagged screaming mouth; Marie-Therese is a floating dream of lavender curves and post-coital sensuality, the decorative apotheosis of the Surrealist unconscious.

The beautiful, intensely intelligent, increasingly distraught Dora Maar inspired an angular style that gives Expressionism a Cubist infrastructure and recalls the vibrant striations of the "Demoiselles" period.

Nostrils, ears, tongues, teeth, fingers, fingernails and even handkerchiefs: every detail is manipulated to maximum effect, usually to convey double meanings, always to give the convulsions of grief an almost architectural grandeur and an emotional reality beyond realism.

Finally, for Picasso aficianados, both professional and amateur, this show has inside baseball to die for, most of it hiding in plain sight.

Occasionally the main characters meet: in the astounding drawing "Murder" of 1934, a fleshy version of Olga's "screaming head," now equipped with giant rotting teeth and pinwheel arms, plunges a butcher knife into a sketchier victim who has the rounded tell-tale profile of Marie-Therese.

Needless to say, the implications of biography are so heavy in the air here that one can almost hear screenplays and story treatments chugging out of fax machines all over Hollywood.

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