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1934, The Biographical Background
Allied to Picasso's fascination for Balzac's short-story, The Unknown Masterpiece, was an intention to create a single work which brought together all his important themes.

Works by Picasso which contain a convergence of many themes usually only occurred at times of crisis. It is no coincidence that such works are now almost always regarded as the most important masterpieces. Picasso created his best work under stress.

Although the year 1934 is barely documented in Picasso history, it was without doubt one of the most critical years for the artist, because it was the commencement of the worst period of his life.

Picasso was driven in his art by the need to unload himself of psychological concerns.

The sequence of works leading up to the 1934 drawing and following on from it, show that Picasso's principle concern at this time was the love triangle that existed between himself, his wife Olga and his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter.

In the early months of 1934 Picasso invented horrific bullfight scenes analogous to the developments in his life.


Later the same year, Picasso's wife who, at this time, has been described as a person possessed, appears to have discovered her husband's affair and filed for divorce.

The divorce unsettled Picasso enormously, threatening both his family life and property.

Another dimension to the crisis is that Marie-Thérèse appears to have undergone an abortion at or just prior to the time of the drawing.

Symbols relating to a tragic pregnancy are repeated throughout the drawing and also appear in other works going back as far as 1925. Which may indicate an earlier loss of a child with Picasso.


By mid 1934, Picasso began depicting his wife, who may have known about the pregnancy, as a raging monster wielding a carving knife in a murderous attack on Marie-Thérèse.

These terrifying visions of hatred and destruction and the artist's consequent feelings of crucifixion are key elements in the drawing.

The unparalleled convergence of themes describe a tragic and terrifying theatre of the mind in which Picasso represents the two women in his life as the two thieves at his own crucifixion.

The drawing is riddled with symbolism associated with the artist's personal life and his mystical interests and it also contains cryptic references to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich.

Picasso had been greatly concerned about political developments in Europe. Another war with Germany seemed inevitable and as a result of this horrific realisation, powerful apocalyptic images which seem to have emerged from depths of hell, can be found hidden in the drawing.

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Further Reading: Herbert.T.Schwartz, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse 1925-27. Editions Isabeau, Canada, 1988.

JPG image (13 K) Marie-Therese
JPG image (16 K) Olga
JPG image (20 K) Picasso
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