Indiscretion: Philanderer; drove women to madness…and suicide
Womanizer, insensitive, occasionally violent…all apply to Picasso. So, why were women so attracted to him? Because women love bad boys and Picasso was the quintessential brooding, irreverent rebel; the leather jacket wearing, motorcycle riding James Dean of the art world, if you will.
Fernande Oliver was Picasso’s first love. She was with the artist for nine years and inspired Picasso’s Rose Period; a collection of optimistic themed paintings with warm tones, specifically pink. While Fernande was devoted to Picasso, the artist couldn’t remain faithful, entertaining several lovers during his time with Fernande. And of course, what’s better than a cheating lover, but a jealous, cheating lover? Picasso, probably projecting his guilty conscience on Fernande, would often lock her up in their apartment while he went off with his lovers, alienating her from the outside world, ultimately, causing her to grow more and more dependant on the artist. Eventually, Picasso lost interest in Fernande (because, really, who wants to be with a doormat? Even if, you know, you kinda made her that way) and left her for Eva Gouel, who died shortly after from tuberculosis. Fernande never got over the artist, and revered him until her death as her only true love.
Next came Olga Koklova, a Russian ballet dancer, and soon after their meeting, the couple married. The two had a son, Paulo, and for a few years Picasso embraced the high social standing he had acquired; he was famous by now and the couple enjoyed spending money. Olga in particular, loved expensive restaurants and attending balls, hob knobbing with the Paris elite. However, the pressure of married life, fatherhood, and bourgeois propriety finally caught up with Picasso; he left Olga who ultimately had a nervous breakdown. She was not ready to let go of the lifestyle she had enjoyed and began throwing tantrums in public to re-capture Picasso’s attention, (I mean, what man can resist that?) and stalked her husband and his mistresses. Needless to say, Picasso was not amused and began seeing Marie-Therese Walter.
Okay, this is when things start to get kinda sad. Marie-Therese was enamored with Picasso, much like Fernande. She lived with the artist in the South of France and she bore Picasso’s first daughter, Maya. Things were going relatively well for the couple; Picasso adored his new daughter and was, you know… fond of Marie-Therese, too. That is, until one fateful afternoon when the beautiful and well know photographer, Dora Maar waltzed into Picasso’s studio. The artist fell in love with her immediately and the two began a clandestine affair. This was not good news to Marie-Therese who confronted the couple in Picasso’s studio. She gave her lover an ultimatum: either her or Dora. Picasso explained to Marie-Therese that he was quite comfortable with the current situation and that the two women would have to work it out amongst themselves. I wish I could tell you Marie-Therese, disgusted, walked out with her dignity still in tact…but I can’t. The two women began to actually wrestle in front of Picasso who later described the event as, “one of my choicest memories.” (Please excuse me while I dry heave.)
The exact outcome of the altercation is unknown, but if this gives you a clue, sadly, Marie-Therese later hanged herself in her garage.
Although Dora and Picasso sustained a nine year relationship, the beautiful photographer didn’t fare so well, either. Dora was on the receiving end of Picasso’s dark moods and grew increasingly depressed and withdrawn. She was often portrayed in Picasso’s work as “The Weeping Woman” and after learning of her lover’s next affair with the young, beauty Francoise Gilot, her mental health deteriorated completely. Being the ever well connected, Picasso sent Dora to his famous psychiatrist friend, Jacques Lacan for treatment and later put her up in an apartment in Paris. She became a recluse for the remainder of her life and when family and friends went through her apartment after her death, they found souvenirs from her life with Picasso including several small paintings, love notes, and even a cloth with a brown stain Dora had labeled, "Sang de Picasso" (Picasso's blood).
Moving on, Francoise was 23, gorgeous, and a joyful change of pace to Picasso who by this time was in his 60’s. Throughout their ten year relationship, Francoise gave birth to a son and a daughter, and enjoyed her role as Picasso’s muse. The relationship didn’t last however, due to, you guessed it, yet another affair by Picasso with Jacqueline Roque.
Jacqueline, the last woman in Picasso’s life, was with the artist for 20 years until his death in 1973. She was not only his lover and muse, but she devoted her life to Picasso’s work and became his secretary and manager. After Picasso’s death, Jacqueline lost emotional footing. Her reason for living was gone and after continuous conflicts with Picasso’s children over the artist’s estate, Jacqueline finally gave up and tragically shot herself.