Woman with a Fringe (Alice B. Toklas)

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)
Gouache on paper card, c. 1908
Private collection
© 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Pablo Picasso painted this gouache of Toklas’s head within the first months of her arrival in Paris. Toklas had hired his lover, Fernande Olivier, as a tutor in French, and this must have provided an occasion for Picasso to paint her. Toklas was not yet intimately involved with Stein, and Picasso was in a period of experimentation, working through his fascination with Cézanne’s late portraits and African sculpture. He gave the portrait a primitive cast with Toklas’s conspicuously long bangs—fringe became her trademark—her prominent nose, and her customary demure posture, head bowed as if over a book, needlework, or a stove. It is a remarkable likeness, but Alice never spoke about it. Nor did she and Stein hang it prominently in their homes, where it might diminish Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude that always took pride of place. Toklas sold the portrait after Stein died.