Pablo Picasso

Woman in an Armchair No.1 (The Polish Cloak)


Not on display
Pablo Picasso 1881–1973
Original title
Femme au fauteuil No.1 (Le Manteau polonais)
Lithograph on paper
Image: 688 x 511 mm
Presented by Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler 1974, accessioned 1994


Woman in an Armchair No.1 (The Polish Cloak) depicts Picasso’s companion Françoise Gilot sitting on a chair, wearing the coat he had brought back for her from Poland after attending the first World Peace Congress in Wroclaw in 1948 (see also Woman at the Window, P11362). Using lithographic ink as wash, the artist created soft tones and delicate shading to describe her face and richer, more solid areas of black and white to render her hair and ornate coat.

Between December 1948 and January 1949 Picasso made six different versions of the lithograph Woman in an Armchair in the atelier of the printer Fernand Mourlot in Paris. Although called Woman in an Armchair No.1, this print is from the definitive state of the second version. The first version was simply called Woman in an Armchair. The subject clearly engaged Picasso’s attention. He first tackled it by making a version in yellow, red, green, purple and black which was printed from five separate zinc plates, one for each colour. Dissatisfied with the result, he then reworked all the plates to make a second, more ornate state. He then proceeded to make a second version, which comprises ten states, from the red zinc plate. At this point Picasso made six states, which varied significantly from each other. He then transferred the fifth of these onto a new zinc plate and at the same time made a ‘corrected tracing’ on tracing paper, which he transferred onto another plate. He then produced three more states from the transfer and eventually reworked the corrected tracing entirely with ink wash and produced the current print, which constitutes the definitive state of the second version. Picasso originally wanted to superimpose this state over the third state of the transfer, which was to be printed in grey for this purpose, but was not entirely satisfied with the result and abandoned this idea, deciding to have the reworked tracing printed on its own instead.

The Woman in an Armchair series – which also comprises four further versions made from the original green, yellow, purple and black zinc plates – is widely considered the pinnacle of Picasso’s lithographic work. This print in particular demonstrates his mastery of lithographic technique. It was printed on white Arches wove paper in an edition of a small number of artist’s proofs plus fifty signed and numbered prints and published by the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.

This artist’s proof was a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary gift from the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler of the Galerie Louise Leiris to his brother Gustav and sister-in-law Elly Kahnweiler, who bequeathed it to Tate.

Further reading
Fernand Mourlot, Picasso Lithographe, Paris 1970, pp.101-19, reproduced p.109
Brigitte Baer, Picasso the Printmaker: Graphics from the Marina Picasso Collection, exhibition catalogue, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas 1983
Giorgia Bottinelli, ‘Pablo Picasso’, in Jennifer Mundy (ed.), Cubism and its Legacy: The Gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004, pp.88-90, reproduced p.97

Giorgia Bottinelli
June 2004

Display caption

This print depicts Picasso’s companion Françoise Gilot wearing a coat he brought back for her from the World Peace Congress in Poland in 1948. Picasso made six different versions of the lithograph. This artist’s proof, taken from the second version, was given to Gustav and Elly for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and is inscribed on the back ‘To Elly and Gustav for their silver wedding anniversary with my affection, Heini, March 1950’.

Gallery label, September 2004


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