‘The Rower’

Guest piece

A visitor in front of The Rower by Pablo Picasso, 2022. Photo: Pablo Asenjo ©Museo Picasso Málaga

The Cubist painting The Rower, executed by Pablo Picasso in Cadaqués during the summer of 1910 and belonging to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has joined Dialogues with Picasso. Collection 2020–2023 at the Museo Picasso Málaga as a guest piece.

Hailed as a fundamental work of the Cubist movement along with other pieces by the artist such as Woman with Mandolin (Museum Ludwig, Cologne) and Nude Woman (National Gallery of Art, Washington), it marked a complete transformation in the representation of the human figure at the dawn of the last century.

The Rower hangs in a prominent place in room II of the museum, close to Jacqueline Dürrbach’s tapestry version of Les demoiselles d’Avignon. For whereas in this 1907 image Picasso constructed the female figures from flat, curved segments but gave them masks that defied three-dimensional space, in the canvas from the United States, executed three years later, he based the image on a new Cubist structure of curved, faceted figures. The individual components of the body are suggested by curved and angled planes that expand or tilt forwards and backwards in space.

Picasso drew the figure in lines of black paint and later gave it texture by adding rectangular horizontal white strokes, shaded in places with ochre, grey and black.

The last time The Rower was on display in Europe was more than thirty years ago, when it was exhibited at the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel in 1989. Its title has led it to be seen as a man rowing, together with his reflection in the water and ripples that appear to indicate the movement of an oar. However, other interpretations view the figure as a seated woman – a reading that seems more likely according to more recent studies.