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José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945)

The Hairdresser

ca. 1937


Oil on canvas, 163 x 110 cm


Signed at the lower left corner “J. Solana”

In Solana’s female universe, peopled by coarse, unattractive women, hairdressers occupy a special role and are identified through the objects that they use to carry out their work.

Solana translated onto canvas his observations made in various hairdressers in Madrid, located in flats on calle El Amparo and calle Tres Peces, where the mannequins used for practicing hairdressing or for making wigs were stood out on the balconies.

The present painting, which according to Solana in his written texts depicts “Lola the Hairdresser”, includes wicker heads that the artist had bought in the Rastro in Madrid and which can be seen in some of the surviving photographs of his studio. They also appear in his Self-portrait of 1943.

The inclusion of two mirrors is a device that appears in other works by the artist and is used to reflect what the viewer could not otherwise see, in this case the back of the hairdresser’s neck, a figure whose calloused hands betray her humble origins. Solana’s written description is a precise one: “Having got to the end of the street and particularly lost in our own thoughts, a ball of hair suddenly falls from a balcony, then another larger one and on some occasions a complete lock of hair. What could this be? We look up and notice on the balcony a cardboard woman’s head, all battered and with the paint peeled off; the wicker bust is dressed in a blue housecoat. This head has real hair that hangs down from its head in dirty tangles. Below it is a sign with large letters reading ‘Lola the Hairdresser’”.

María José Salazar