Woman Ironing | Inside Out sadness
Woman Ironing | Inside Out sadness

Woman Ironing | Inside Out sadness

Posted on 10 January, 2022




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Location of the visited exhibition


Oil paint


116,2 cm x 73 cm

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, a Spanish artist, was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was one of the founders, along with Georges Braque, of the Cubist movement, and constructed paintings, sculptures, and collages. With his style, Picasso represented a long arc of art history, examining it in all its different facets.

These varied and multifaceted characteristics are visible in his different ‘periods’. The periods into which Picasso’s works are divided are the Blue Period (1901/1904), Pink Period (1904/1906), African Period (1907/1906), Analytical Cubism (1909/1912), Synthetic Cubism (1912/1919), Neoclassical (late 1910s early 1920s), Surrealist (1920s).

Woman Ironing | Inside Out sadness
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser, 1978 © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Woman Ironing is a work by Picasso, housed in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The woman depicted in this work is a woman at work.

Picasso paid much attention to the working class, often making them the main subject of his work; because in this way, the artist exalted the fatigue, exhaustion, stress, burnout, and sadness that often accompanied these workers. The marked trait that defines the figure underlines precisely this condition. The condition of submission to the rules of an excessively harsh society, which weighs on the shoulders of the worker. The woman appears isolated from the context, so just as she is isolated and alone in life.

Picasso succeeded in rendering the melancholic atmosphere around these subjects through the use of the color blue, which dominated these works.

The Woman Ironing
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Picasso created The Woman Ironing in 1904, at the end of the Blue Period, which is the reason why there is a strong presence of the colors grey and white. The lighting points, which highlight the woman’s scantily detailed face, succeed in conveying the protagonist’s fatigue and sacrifice.

But Picasso painted the same subject, with softer strokes and thicker brushstrokes in 1901, at the beginning of his Blue Period in an early version. In this work, the blue tones are much more prevalent than in the 1904 version.

Blue Period

When I realized Casagemas was dead, I started to paint in blue.

Pablo Picasso

This was the starting of Picasso’s Periodo Azul (Blue Period), the suicide of one of his friends, the poet, and painter Carlos Casagemas, in February 1901. With the death of his friend, Picasso sank into a severe depression. The painter began to make mainly monochrome paintings in shades of blue to give vent to his grief. Picasso’s The Death of Casagemas, in the Picasso Museum in Paris, which he completed in early 1902, has blue-green as its dominant color and a bright red background. This work is therefore the first of the Blue Period.

Picasso’s depression lasted for several years, which greatly affected his career, which had been flourishing until then. Picasso’s subjects had become the poor and marginalized of society. The colors Picasso used to represent them were cold and melancholic, tending towards blue. But the public was not enthusiastic about Picasso’s stylistic change. The anguished themes he addressed by the artist alienated critics and buyers. No one wanted the Blue Period works in their homes.

Sadness, Inside Out

Sadness, an emotion that we often try to hide, pretending that it does not exist; pretending that everything is fine even when it is obvious that, inside or outside, something is wrong. The 2015 Disney Pixar animated film Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter and with a screenplay by Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, deals with this sensitive issue. The stars of this film are the emotions of Riley; a young 11-year-old girl who has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco for her father’s new job. In Riley’s mind, there are the colorful personifications of her emotions that control her actions; Joy (Yellow), Fear (Purple), Disgust (Green), Anger (Red) and Sadness (Blue)

Joy acts as the leader and she and the rest of the emotions try to limit the influence of Sadness so that Riley can have happy days all the time. As the family moves into their new home, Riley is forced to deal with many changes.

Despite Joy’s various attempts to contain Sadness, she disobeys and so begins to interfere in Riley’s actions and memories.

So in the movie, which should be read as a metaphor for the transition from childhood to adolescence, Joy understands that to grow up and feel good, it is essential to give proper attention to all emotions and that therefore Riley must also experience sadness. Just as Picasso’s audience rejected and did not understand the melancholy depicted in the works of the Blue Period, so too Joy understands the fundamental importance of Sadness only at the end of the film.

This is because Riley and Picasso will only be able to feel well after accepting and going through their pain, their blue sadness.


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