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Picasso's Women

Several women were involved in the life and works of Picasso. They are captured in some of his best paintings.

Pablo Picasso's unusual relationship with women is one of the most controversial aspects of his personality, and the reason for analyzing the power of his temperament over his artistic work. Picasso influenced all the women he loved from the beginning, with the huge burden of artistic creativity paired with his own romantic enthusiasm. However, that flame went out just as easily as he burned bridges and broke hearts. Picasso was gentle and romantic with all his lovers, but only until a new relationship turned him into a tyrant, first ignoring his lover and then forgetting her completely.

The first woman was Fernande Olivier, whom Picasso met in Montmartre. They were the same age, and she was famous among artists for her laziness and for being corpulent. She never accepted Picasso's marriage proposals. She, along with Picasso and a large group of his friends, formed the "Picasso Gang." Picasso made several portraits of her. Picasso returned to Spain with Fernande in 1909 to a town called Horta de Sant Joan in Tarragona after introducing her to his parents in Barcelona. When they returned to Paris, their relationship began to decline. After Fernande had an affair, Picasso took the opportunity to leave her.

Next was Eva Gouel, between 1911 and 1915, whom he met at a Picasso Gang party. There was an incident at that party between Picasso, who was displaying his latest painting, and Matisse, who criticized his work and asked if anyone could see anything in it. Eva responded that it was a portrait of the art dealer Vollard. Picasso truly loved that woman, who was the opposite of Fernande. Picasso called her "Ma Jollie," a name that appears in many of his cubist paintings. Shortly after meeting her, Picasso took Eva to Céret, a Pyrenean town near the border with Spain. When the war began, Picasso did not feel involved in the conflict. One of his paintings, Family of Saltimbanques, sold very well. He gained riches and fame while Eva was in very poor health.


Eva Gouel

Picasso then met Gaby Depreye, with whom he had a secret affair. After the death of Eva, Gaby refused Picasso's marriage proposal. They would not see each other again until the 1950s.

Eva died in 1915, and the next woman in his life was Olga Koklova (between 1917 and 1929). She was Picasso's first legal wife and she gave him his first son, Paulo. They met each other in 1917 when Picasso came into contact with Diaghilev's Russian ballet. Olga was one of the ballerinas when the group was performing in Rome. She was an ambitious woman of noble birth, which had an influence on Picasso. Olga was beautiful but also stubborn and sad. This is how she appears in early portraits, though the paintings done at the end, when the relationship had deteriorated, portrayed terrible cruelty. In February 1921, Paulo was born. Picasso abandoned cubism and made sweet, neoclassical portraits. Olga was interested in rubbing shoulders with the Parisian high society, while Picasso became interested in Surrealism.

At the end of the 1920s, and escaping fights with Olga, Picasso met Marie-Thèrése Walter, who was seventeen years old, while passing through Paris. He remained with her from 1929 to 1936, although, before and after he met her, he hid their new relationship from society. Marie-Thèrése was like a breath of fresh air for him, which is reflected in his paintings, as he abandoned cubism and Surrealism and turned toward more sensual paintings. Marie-Thèrése was Swiss, blonde, cheerful, and of a very gentle demeanor. She was totally selfless and not at all demanding, an enemy of conventionalism. In 1935, their daughter Maya was born, but Picasso quickly grew tired of them.

Picasso then met Dora Maar, with whom he stayed between 1935 and 1943. Dora witnessed the development of his most famous painting, Guernica. Since she was a photographer, she took photos of all the sketches of Guernica. When Marie-Thèrése went to visit Picasso, Dora would not let her in. Marie-Thèrése was a victim of Picasso's abandonment; unable to bear his absence, she committed suicide in 1977. For her part, Dora Maar lost her mind when Picasso left her. She entered into a process of meditation and hallucinations. Dora died in Paris at the age of ninety in July 1997.

Françoise Gilot - in a relationship with Picasso between 1943 and 1952 - gave Picasso two children, Claude and Paloma. She was the only woman to leave him. In 1943, when Françoise met Picasso, she was twenty-three years old and he was sixty-two. Françoise was interested in painting and had artistic talent, which excited Picasso. Her social status, upper class, was also attractive. In 1945, at the end of World War II, Picasso took Françoise for a long stay at the French Riviera. Françoise was the Flower Woman. Picasso started painting her portrait when he wanted to see her. A few hours later, Françoise appeared. Picasso said that it was like what the ancient inhabitants did in the caves. They would paint bison; then, bison would immediately appear and the people would hunt them.

Picasso was not controlling, but he controlled. He did not care about giving orders, but he was in charge... He never wanted to be a leader, but he was. Françoise's great mistake, as well as Dora's, was giving up painting and living only for Picasso. But by the beginning of the 1950s, Françoise started to overcome her blindness because of his artistic genius, beginning to feel dissatisfied at his side.

Genevieve Laporte, with Picasso between 1944 and 1953, went to see Picasso in his Paris studio when she was sixteen years old to interview him for her school newspaper. Picasso asked her to return; thus began her secret visits, which would last years and would be the motive for Picasso to paint several of his great sensual pieces. Picasso and Genevieve's relationship finally ended due to a grave misunderstanding between the two.

The last was Jacqueline Roque, from 1955 to 1973. They lived together for eighteen years. When they met, Jacqueline was twenty-seven years old - a difference of forty-seven years with Picasso. She was small, shorter than Picasso; she was four feet, eleven inches tall, while Picasso was five foot four. Jacqueline was always well-dressed, strict, self-sacrificing, and certainly ready to become the painter's secretary, messenger, nurse, lover, housekeeper, and even his slave and warden. Like the previous women, she was Picasso's model time and time again.

They would later marry in March of 1961, when Picasso was eighty years old and six years after the death of Olga Koklova, the painter's first legal spouse whom he never divorced. From that point, Picasso and Jacqueline lived together for seven years in "La Californie," an enormous house situated on a hill above Cannes. There, Jacqueline jealously guarded the painter from his friends' warmth and his admirers' curiosity. Jacqueline committed suicide on October 15, 1986 in Mougins, at Notre Dame de Vie - the house at the French Riviera where she had lived her final years with and without Picasso. She died after getting through the inheritance issues and after all that she made Picasso's heirs suffer, essentially due to her behavior at Picasso's funeral, as she prohibited their attendance.

It truly seems that the fates of all the women were marked by their relationship with the painter. That is the most surprising aspect - as if Picasso's creative force as reflected in his work were paired with an equal force capable of destroying any of his relationships, an overwhelming whirlwind that drug all the women he loved to disaster.

Perhaps we could discuss the artistic temperament that Picasso imposed on mundane emotions. However, if we analyze the painter as a human being and not as an artistic concept, we see an egocentric and egotistical personality, a person without empathy toward those around him, which contrasts his great artistic sensitivity.