With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
In 1917, Picasso stayed in Rome to produce the sets for Diaghilev’s ballet Parade. While there he met Olga Kokhlova, a dancer with the Ballets Russes, and rediscovered antique statuary, Etruscan art and early Renaissance painting. As a result the work produced in those years saw the appearance of monumental, gigantic, old-fashioned human forms.
Woman Reading, where the model was Olga, whom Picasso married in 1918, presents a hieratic figure in which classicism and Cubism are juxtaposed with virtuosity. The swollen, pink flesh of the face and hands, plus the position of the finger placed on the temple remind us of Picasso’s interest in the characteristic drawing and deformation of the art of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, in particular the Portrait of Madame Moitessier painted by this latter in 1856. The nose and the arch of the eyebrows evoke the regularity of faces in antique statues. The bust and the clothing with its flattened folds, and the monochrome palette of greys and browns, for their part, make reference to the period of analytical deconstruction in Cubism (1910-1912). The style of the hair, with long, wavy locks, lends a note of freedom and refers to the technique of carving. The impressive, grey-clad figure barely stands out against the more neutral grey ground, in matching tones which strengthen the flesh tints. The atmosphere of serenity released by this scene is due as much to the restricted choice of colours as to the sculptural effect of the deeply concentrating figure.
Woman Reading, 1920
© Musée de Grenoble