Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) had not only an awe-inspiring impact on the arts, but also a breathtaking one in all the women he met. The female representation consists one of his most remarkable motifs in his artworks highlighting the alluring fascination Picasso had for women. Vancouver Art Gallery’s current exhibition is seeking to explore the painter’s love and art relationship with his muses showcasing how these women contributed in his artistic practice during his long-lasting career. His relationship with the opposite gender was either inspirational or furious; but certainly intense.
Once he said to Francoise Gilot, one of the numerous lovers he had, that for him “there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats” underlying his vexed connection with his female partners. Here are six of the most important female figures Picasso met during his life and fell madly in love with:
1. Fernande Olivier (❤️1904-1912?)
Fernande Olivier was originally French and worked as a model, most notably as Picasso’s model. It was the time when the young Picasso decided to move from Barcelona to Paris aiming to progress his artistic talent. The bohemian affair between Olivier and Picasso was the painter’s first long lasting love relationship that kept going for seven years. Both were very young at that time and tended to be jealous lovers. Nevertheless, Olivier was a great female stimulus for Picasso who made over 60 paintings inspired by her. These include the sculpture of Head of a Woman (1909), which consists of a great example of Picasso’s contribution to Cubism movement, as well as the aesthetically notorious painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) highlighting Picasso’s artistic transformation due to the cultural dynamism of the French capital. Olivier, during her relationship with Picasso, started to meet another Italian artist and that gave Picasso a serious turndown which led to a dramatic separation. After twenty years, she decided to write down her memories with Picasso and eventually managed to publish them in a book despite his strong opposition.
2. Eva Gouel (❤1912-1915?)
After Olivier’s cheating on him in 1912, her friend Marcelle Humbert, who Picasso called Eva Gouel, became the right company to console him. We still do not know many details about their relationship and Goeul is considered an enigma in Picasso’s life. What is interesting to know is that the famous painter never created a portrait of her, however, she was an immense source of inspiration for the great painter. He painted several series of semi-abstract painting compositions based on her, including I Love Eva (1912) or Ma Jolie (1912) which it is said to be her nickname. Unfortunately, in 1915 she died of tuberculosis and left Picasso in despair. Picasso was very caring with Goeul during her illness, but at the same time he was secretly dating another Parisian woman named Gaby Depeyre (actual name Gabrielle Lespinasse); an affair that lasted almost a year.
3. Olga Khokhlova (❤1917-1927?)
In the middle of 1910s, after Gouel’s death, Picasso left Paris and moved to Rome where he fell in love with a Russian ballerina. If we have to praise a real love milestone in Picasso’s life, then we should mention Olga Khokhlova who had a great impact in his life. They married in 1918 and she was Picasso’s first wife and woman to give birth to his child, Paolo, making him a father in 1921. Their marriage lasted for ten years and during that period it was not only his personal life which faced important changes, but also his artistic direction that remarkably shifted from an aesthetic abstraction to a conservative neoclassicism. Khokhlova’s impact on the painter’s perception about the female representation on his artworks also progressed by rendering a more naturalistic approach such as Portrait of Olga in an Armchair (1918), Olga in a Mantilla (1917) or Madame Olga Picasso (1923). Their marriage was happy and tendering at first, but their relationship became tougher. On the verge of nervous breakdown because of Picasso’s persistent infidelity, their marriage ended to be a dramatic life story. Picasso started losing his interest in her, while his desire for new love adventures was increasing. On top of that, the painter developed a secret love affair with a very young Spanish girl who became the painter’s next lover and woman to give birth to his second child, Maya. Then, Olga took her little son and went to live alone in the south of France. They never lived together again until her death.
4. Marie-Thérèse Walter (❤1927-1936?)
In 1927, when Picasso met Marie-Thérèse Walter, she was a seventeen-year-old Spanish girl. At that time Picasso was 46 and tempted to secretly experience a love affair like a tornado. This woman not only turned out to be his ideal muse underlying a new era in his artistic expression, but also became the mother of his first daughter, Maya. The time Picasso was with this very young woman coincided with the period of Surrealism in his career. Walter also was the inspiration for Vollard Suite, a series of one hundred etchings made during their relationship. Other iconic paintings were Marie-Thérèse Walter in Le Rêve (The Dream) (1932), Marie-Thérèse avec une guirlande (1937) and The Farmer’s Wife (1938). Albeit their enchanting and very caring relationship, Picasso did not try to limit his desire for meeting new partners. Their inglorious end took place when Picasso fell in love with Dora Maar in 1936.
5. Dora Maar (❤1936-1944?)
Dora Maar was also involved in the arts working as a photographer and a painter. During 1930s, she met Picasso and became his new muse for nearly a decade. The creative impact on him was remarkable. Having been a real stimulation for his imagination, Picasso created a few of his greatest masterpieces, Guernica (1937), also allowing her to document the stages of the painting process with her camera as well as the Weeping Woman (1937) depicting Maar as a crying woman. The latter one consists one of his great artworks of the cubist period of his painting career. However, after seven years of their relationship, Picasso left her as he felt in love with Françoise Gilot.
6. Jacqueline Roque (❤1953-1973)
Jacqueline Rogue was the second woman Picasso officially married and spent the rest of his life with her until his death in 1973. Picasso was in his middle 70s when he met his 27-year-old French new muse. Their marriage lasted almost twenty years and Jacqueline was an endless inspiration for him as he created over four hundred portraits of her, including Jacqueline with Flowers (1954), Jacqueline in Studio (1956) or Femme assise (Jacqueline) (1971). He did not stop painting until he died and his representations of his last iconic muse were plentiful. Unfortunately, Roque’s relationship with Picasso’s all four children was rough as she strongly disagreed with them over the division of the painter’s fortune to the extent that she did not allow them to attend their father’s funeral. Her death was also dramatic as she shot herself in 1986.
Images via Art-Picasso, Art Net, Alchetron, Philippe Sollers, Web art Academy, The Red List, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, 1stdibs