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Masterpieces powered by a messy life

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It’s been said that Picasso is the father of modern art movements. But what should be said is that the women he loved and lost were the mothers of his inventions. When his relationships went sour, he acted out his anger on canvas and ended up with paintings most trumpeted in the art world.

Art historians attribute the monstrous masks on women in "Demoiselle d'Avignon" to the influence that African art had on Picasso. But they overlook Picasso's own reason for painting this very slaughterous study of women: his breakup with Fernande Olivier. Tagging it his “first exorcism painting,” he called the masks "intercesseurs, mediators . . . weapons to help people avoid coming under the influence of spirits . . . to help them become independent."

Fragmented and hard-edged, "Demoiselles d'Avignon" was a far, heartsick cry from his fragile and delicate portrait of Olivier, in "Bust of a Woman" when they were together.

Similarly, when Picasso painted the world’s greatest depiction of death and destruction in modern art history – “Guernica” – it was after the death and destruction of his liaison with “Marie-Therese Walter.” Unlike his portrait of her when they were together, “Marie-Therese Face and Profile.” one of Picasso's softest, sunniest, sweetest pictures of a woman, his line changed from soft to sharp-angled and out came “Guernica.”

He said it himself: "In the end, there is only love. However it may be."

But now comes an an exception to this story. While all of Picasso’s models shared his bed, only Sylvette David a.k.a. Lydia Corbett, a shy 19-year-old, who posed for a series of 40 different portraits in 1954, didn’t, and notably, no touted work came out of it.

The 40-work series is now showing at the Kunsthalle museum in Bremen, Germany under the title "Sylvette, Sylvette, Sylvette: Picasso and the Model” – all soft, sunny and sweet.

Good for Sylvia for dodging a bullet. But with no hookup and no breakup, the art world has to live without another slash and burn Picasso to venerate.


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