Germaine Gargallo, Picasso's Lover

Picasso's "The Two Saltimbanques"
Picasso's "The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion)", 1901. Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Germaine Gargallo Florentin Pichot went from being roommates with Pablo Picasso, to being lovers, and finally, friends. They spent 48 years together in all, from 1900-1948. She died in Paris in 1948.

Beginnings

Germaine Gargallo Florentin Pichot (1880-1948) entered Picasso's life in 1900 when the young artists from Barcelona arrived in Paris and stayed at Isidre Nonell's studio at 49 rue Gabriel. Germaine and her "sister"—Gertrude Stein claimed that Germaine had many "sisters"—Antoinette Fornerod served as models and lovers.

She was not related to Picasso's friend Pau Gargallo, but did claim to be part Spanish. She spoke Spanish, as did Antoinette. Another young model, who called herself Odette (her real name was Louise Lenoir) hooked up with Picasso. Odette did not speak Spanish and Picasso did not speak French.

Casagemas

Germaine's claim to fame in Picasso's biography stems from her liaison with Picasso's best friend Carles or Carlos Casagemas (1881-1901) who accompanied Picasso to Paris that fall in 1900. Picasso had just turned 19. The Catalan artist Casagemas fell madly in love with Germaine, even though she was already married.

Manuel Pallarès i Grau (known as "Pajaresco") joined his Catalan bros about 10 days later at Nonell's studio so that six people were now living for the next two months in a large—but not that large—studio. Pallarès set up a schedule for everything from working on their art to "enjoying" their respective lady friends.

Picasso and Casagemas returned to Barcelona in time for Christmas.

The love-sick Casagemas decided to return to Paris the following February without Picasso. He desperately wanted Germaine to live with him—to be his fiancée, even though she was already married to some guy named Florentin. Germaine also confessed to Pallarès that Casagemas had not consummated the relationship.

She refused Casagemas' request.

On February 17, 1901, Casagemas went out to dinner with friends at the L'Hippodrome, drank a lot, and at about 9:00 p.m. stood up, gave a short speech and then pulled out a revolver. He shot Germaine, grazed her temple with a bullet and then shot himself in the head.

Picasso was in Madrid and did not attend the memorial service in Barcelona.

Roommates, Lovers, Friends

When Picasso returned to Paris in May 1901 he took up with Germaine. Germaine married a member of Picasso's Catalan group, Ramon Pichot (1872-1925), in 1906 and remained in Picasso's life well into his later years.

Death

Françoise Gilot recalled a visit she and Picasso made to Madame Pichot in Montmartre in the mid-1940s. Germaine was old, sick and toothless by then. Picasso knocked on the door, did not wait for an answer, walked in and said a few things. Then he left some money on the nightstand. According to Gilot, it was Picasso's way of showing her a vanitas.

Known Examples of Germaine Pichot in Picasso's Art

  • Germaine, 1900, sale at Christie's May 9, 2009.
  • The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion), 1901, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.
  • La Vie, 1903, The Cleveland Museum of Art.
  • Au Lapin Agile, 1904-05, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sources

  • Gilot, Françoise with Carlton Lake. Life with Picasso. McGraw-Hill, 1964, New York/London/Toronto.
  • Richardson, John. A Life of Picasso, Volume 1: 1881-1906. Random House, 1991, New York.
  • Tinterow, Gary (et. al.). Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010, New York.