Two Girls Reading (Deux Enfants Lisant)

Accession Number

Two Girls Reading (Deux Enfants Lisant)

Pablo Picasso

Artist Nationality
Spanish (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
March 28, 1934

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

43 3/8 in x 35 3/16 in x 3 in (110.17 cm x 89.38 cm x 7.62 cm);43 3/8 in x 35 3/16 in x 3 in (110.17 cm x 89.38 cm x 7.62 cm);36 5/16 in x 28 3/4 in (92.2 cm x 73 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of The Carey Walker Foundation

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Picasso chose to depict this quiet and contemplative subject with strident colors and distorted forms. Part of the reason may lie in his relationship to the two models. The figure on the left is undoubtedly Marie-Thérèse Walter, the twenty-three-year-old woman who gave birth to Picasso’s daughter Maïa a year and a half after the painting was completed. The identity of the figure on the right is less clear. Some scholars believe that it is Walter’s sister; others claim that it is Picasso’s first wife, the ballerina Olga Koklova. If the sitter was Olga Koklova, it is very unlikely that she and Walter posed together, as both were jealous rivals for Picasso’s affections. This imaginary portrait is perhaps explained by the memoirs of Picasso’s postwar mistress, Françoise Gilot. In her account of her life with Picasso, she relates that one of his most persistent sexual fantasies involved two women of opposite but complementary features, one cold and controlling, light-skinned and blonde, and the other dark, excitable, and sensuous.

Subject matter
Two girls in an embrace read a book together. The figure at the viewer's left is Picasso's mistress at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The other figure is thought to be either Olga Koklova, his wife, or Marie-Thérèse's sister. The scene suggests intimacy, yet the distored shapes and vibrant colors evoke a separateness, distance, and give the piece a melancholic feel.

Physical Description
Two girls, depicted in bold geometric shapes and block colors, reading a book together. The figure seated at viewer's right, slightly taller, is green and wearing yellow. The figure at viewer's left has a face of blue and white and is clothed in red resting her clasped hands upon an open book.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
figure painting

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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modern and contemporary art
oil painting (technique)
oil paintings (visual works)
women (female humans)

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& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ FFW, Mezzanine ➜ M01 (Joan and Robert Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art)