Picasso: Painting a Different Picture


By Megan Lanham



Pablo Picasso is a Spanish sculptor, painter and printmaker who is perhaps one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.  The name Picasso is  known to many artists and non-artists alike, being one of the rare artists that became widely admired while still alive. He is known as an avant-garde creative, the co-founder of cubism and he created many well-known pieces throughout his life. However, what the world saw of Picasso versus the man he was through his relationships paints a very different picture. 

Although Picasso was a master of art, he did not possess the same talent when it came to his relationships with women. He was known for taking on various lovers within his lifetime, often committing infidelity and abuse to those who got involved with him.  He heavily featured the women in his life within his artworks, some going on to say that all his work can be categorized into seven distinct styles, each relating to the seven women that impacted his life the most. These women were Fernande Olivier, Eva Gouel, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Therese Walter, Fancoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque. 

Picasso’s first long-term relationship was with a young artists’ model named Fernande Olivier, having a nine year relationship with her. Over the course of their relationship, Picasso allegedly held a jealous streak and would lock her in his house, forbidding her from working with other artists. It has also been reported that during his relationship with Olivier he allegedly adopted a young girl from a convent for the purpose of drawing her in sexual positions. He drew the young girl, on the cusp of puberty, spreading her legs, and allegedly returned her to the convent the same year after he was done using her for the projects he was working on. 

After Olivia contracted an illness, Picasso began to turn his affections towards a woman called Eva Gouel, who became the inspiration for his cubism, often being called the “queen of cubism” due to him heavily featuring her in his paintings. Their relationship lasted for three years until Ava fell ill with tuberculosis, during which time Picasso neglected her, actively cheating on her with other women as her condition worsened and she eventually passed away. 

After Olivia’s death, Picasso became infatuated with a Russian ballerina named Olga Khokhlova. After she turned him down multiple times, she eventually succumbed to his advances and married him. She would come to love him dearly, however, he would never return her feelings after having her. The time of their marriage was riddled with fights and arguments due to Picasso’s continued infidelity and abuse. It has been said that Olga suffered greatly from this and had multiple mental breakdowns, which, according to some sources, Picasso drove her to. Paolo, Olga and Picasso’s son, suffered from depression and drinking problems due to his mother’s deteriorating health, which led to his end later in life. 

A then 50 year old Picasso went on to date a 17 year old named Marie-Therese Walter, who he got pregnant while having marital issues with Olga. She was a more private affair of Picasso’s, as many friends and family did not know of Marie until years into their relationship. After she gave birth to Maya, Picasso’s first daughter, he lost interest in her and went on to date other women while providing for her on the side. Marie later took her own life, allegedly due to Picasso, leaving her daughter Maya behind.

Picasso went on to date a woman half his age called Dora Maar. Dora was a talented photographer and painter; she, however, suffered mental anguish due to repeated abuse and infidelity from Picasso, which led to her having a mental breakdown. Some reports have seen Dora beat to unconsciousness by Picasso. This eventually led to Dora going under shock therapy treatment to be able to heal from the scars Picasso left on her life. 

After Dora, a 62 year old Picasso found himself besotted by a young beauty of the name Francoise Gilot, a 21 year old painter and law student. The couple had a rocky relationship by the repeated pattern of Picasso’s infidelity. She went on to bear him two children. Eventually becoming fed up with Picasso, she became the first woman to leave him and stand on her own. Picasso became jealous of this and attempted to thwart her career, getting her blacklisted from various galleries. Though in spite of this, she went on to remarry, have a family and a successful art career. Her time with Picasso is chronicled in her memoirs. It was Francoise he famously told his view of women, where he said women were either goddesses or doormats.

Finally, nearing 80 years old, Picasso finally settled down with the 27 year old Jacqueline Roque. She stuck by his side even though he yet again had many extramarital affairs up until his death at the age of 91. It has been said that Picasso’s cult-like mentality surrounded not only himself, but his lovers, and Jacqueline was no different. She dedicated herself wholly to him, seeing him as if he were a god. When he died, she went on to take her own life. This was not the only casualty of Picasso. Even after his death, as a result of Jacqueline refusing to allow Picasso’s family to attend his funeral, his grandson went on to take his own life. 

Picasso was a man of immense talent, though even greater as a tormenter to those who knew him, with his own volatile life going on to claim the lives of many others, directly or indirectly. There have been even more concerning claims, such as him kidnapping a woman who refused to date him and a concerning interest in young girls. With all the carnage Picasso has left behind, it’s surprising how much is swept under the rug, especially since some of his artworks directly reference the women he used.  

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