1904 by Pablo Picasso
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Woman Ironing is an intriguing example of Picasso’s approach to his early work; though not governed by his later stylistic choices, the elaborating angles of cubism, his own migration to that way of painting is clear here, in his treatment of paint and use of colour. The spreading of paint and pigment is collage-like, the texture of skin and clothing built up in visible brush strokes, folds of material in swathes of paint. Colour is muted, premeditating both Picasso’s and Georges Braque’s later Cubist dependence on these natural tones. The pale casting of daylight is felt throughout, caught in the dull whites and greys; there are no yellow beams of superficiality here, no false illumination. The body itself is simply drawn in a delicate yet precise outline, clinging to the bones of this arched-over figure. Tall and slender, she is all arms and angular contours, her chin reflecting the curve of her back like a crescent moon. All the weight of the figure is pushed into the object of her concentration, the iron, yet it is without malice or aggravation. There is something beautifully calm in her action, carried by the serenity in her face perhaps, encouraged by Picasso’s painterly articulation.