Pablo Picasso, a Spanish artist, made Old Woman (Woman with Gloves) from 1901 an accurate and painstaking record of a character in the face of the woman which is wrinkled into a smile. Yet the woman is not painted in a naturalistic fashion when we consider Picasso’s use of color which deprives the face of the appearance of flesh.
The woman perches her elbows on an uncertain vermilion structure pocked with yellows and darks that seem to advance and recede alternately. These pock-marks are continued in a background that is suggestive of vegetation and foliage. The structural elements – the dots and dashes – recall the ‘divisionism’ or ‘pointillism’ of Neo-Impressionist painters like Paul Signac who began to experiment with the technique years before.
Picasso’s luminosity of colors here can also be compared with that of the Fauve group who were operating in France at the time. Like in this painting, the Fauves brought non-naturalistic colors to portraits and landscapes and were derided for this at the time by conservative art critics.
The pointillist structure of Picasso’s picture marks restlessness and instability, especially of viewpoint and perspective. This also looks forward to his later exploits in the development of Cubism which further fractured the pictorial space.
Pablo Picasso’s Old Woman (Woman with Gloves) can be seen in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.