In Red Lion Pub

With its loose lines and bold blocks of colour, Woman In Red Lion Pub illustrates Bob Dylan’s fearless approach to figurative painting. As one of the standout artworks from The Drawn Blank Series, this Expressionist portrait is reportedly inspired by a woman he spotted whilst on tour in England in 1992.

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Meaning & Analysis

Believed to have been sketched whilst on tour in Blackpool in the north of England in the early 1990s, Woman In Red Lion Pub is a deceptively simple scene of a woman waiting at a bar. Viewed from behind, the woman is completely unidentifiable. This in itself is unusual for Bob Dylan, who normally features his figures’ faces, albeit with limited detail.

The effect of this is two-fold: firstly, the focus is instead drawn to the curved lines and blocks of vibrant colour. Dylan has yielded a primary colour palette for some variations, with satisfyingly bright (and Picasso-esque) hues of red, yellow and blue. In others, he has created gentler, endearingly delicate shades. The illusion of light and shadow also varies across the works, with some paintings featuring gradients and texture, and others simply pencil or charcoal lines.

The anonymity of the woman also adds to the allure. In 2008, American author Marisha Pessl proposed in The New York Times that “In her slanting, voluptuous silhouette, her choice of dress and hat, Dylan points out her power and sturdy elegance, qualities she herself seems unaware of.”

Perhaps in a nod to his reluctance to tie his works down to a specific place or person, Dylan has changed the skin tone of his character between variations. These artistic tweaks can be seen throughout The Drawn Blank Series, which was originally released in 2008 to great critical acclaim.

Dylan has captured a lone female figure at a bar in other works, such as Hideaway Woman from his Deep Focus series. The contrast between the two works is impressive: unlike the cinematic detail of his more recent work, Woman In Red Lion Pub is distinctly Expressionist, or what Dylan himself calls “the right lines in the right places.”