Picasso's Women: Wives, Lovers, and Muses

Pablo Picasso stands in front of one of his paintings with Brigitte Bardot
Picasso with Brigitte Bardot. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Pablo Picasso had complicated relationships with many of the women in his life—he either revered them or abused them, and typically carried on romantic relationships with several women at the same time. He was married twice and had multiple mistresses and it can be argued that his sexuality fueled his art. Find out more about Picasso's love interests, flirtations, and models in this chronologically-arranged list of significant women in his life.

Laure Germaine Gargallo Pichot

The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion) by Pablo Picasso
The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion).

Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society

Picasso met the model Germaine Gargallo Florentin Pichot, the girlfriend of Picasso's Catalan friend Carlos (or Carles) Casagemos, in Paris in 1900. Casagemos committed suicide in February 1901 and Picasso took up with Germaine in May of that same year. Germaine went on to marry Picasso's friend, Ramon Pichot, in 1906.

Madeleine

Woman with a Helmet of Hair by Pablo Picasso
Woman with a Helmet of Hair. Art Institute of Chicago

Madeleine was the name of a model who posed for Picasso and became his mistress in the summer of 1904. According to Picasso, she became pregnant and had an abortion. Unfortunately, that is everything we know about Madeleine. Where she came from, where she went after leaving Picasso, when she died, and even her last name are lost to history.

His relationship with Madeleine appears to have greatly affected Picasso, as he began drawing images of mothers with their babies around this time—as if to reflect on what might have been. When such a drawing surfaced in 1968, he remarked that he would have had a 64 year-old child by then.

Madeleine appears in some of Picasso's late Blue Period works, all painted in 1904:

  • Woman in a Chemise
  • Madeleine Crouching
  • Woman with a Helmet of Hair
  • Portrait of Madeleine
  • Mother and Child

Fernande Olivier (née Amelie Lang)

Head of Woman (Fernande) by Pablo Picasso
Head of Woman (Fernande).

Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society

Picasso met his first great love, Fernande Olivier, near his studio in Montmartre in the fall of 1904. Fernande was a French artist and model who inspired Picasso's Rose Period works and early Cubist paintings and sculptures. Their tempestuous relationship lasted seven years, ending in 1911. Twenty years later, she wrote a series of memoirs about their life together which she began publishing. Picasso, by then quite famous, paid her not to release any more of them until they both died.

Eva Gouel (Marcelle Humbert)

Woman with a Guitar (Ma Jolie) by Pablo Picasso
Woman with a Guitar (Ma Jolie). The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Picasso fell in love with Eva Gouel, also known as Marcelle Humbert, in the fall of 1911 while he was still living with Fernande Olivier. He declared his love for the fair Eva in his Cubist painting Woman with a Guitar ("Ma Jolie"). Gouel died of tuberculosis in 1915. 

Gabrielle (Gaby) Depeyre Lespinasse

Apparently, during Eva Gouel's final months, André Salmon recommended to Picasso that he catch Gaby Depeyre in one of her shows. The resulting romance was a secret that Picasso and Depeyre kept to themselves throughout their lives.

Salmon remembers Gaby was a singer or dancer in a Parisian cabaret, and he referred to her as "Gaby la Catalane." However, according to John Richardson, who publicized the story of Picasso's affair with Depeyre in an article in House and Gardens (1987) and in the second volume of A Life of Picasso (1996), Salmon's information may not be reliable. Richardson believes she may have been a friend of Eva or of Irène Lagut, Picasso's next lover.

It appears that Gaby and Picasso spent time together in the South of France, as Richardson deduced that their hideaway may have been Herbert Lespinasse's home on the Baie des Canoubiers in St. Tropez. The tryst took place in January or February of 1915 and may have started when Eva spent time in a nursing home after an operation.

Gaby ended up marrying Lespinasse, an American who lived most of his life in France, in 1917. Known for his engravings, he and Picasso had many friends in common, including Moise Kisling, Juan Gris, and Jules Pascin. His home in St. Tropez attracted many of these Parisian artists.

Evidence of Gaby's affair with Picasso only came to light after her husband's death in 1972, when her niece decided to sell paintings, collages, and drawings from her collection. Based on the subject matter in the works (most of which now belong to the Musée Picasso in Paris), there is evidence that Picasso asked Gaby to marry him. Evidently, she refused.

Sources

  • Richardso​n, John. A Life of Picasso, Volume 1: 1881-1906. New York: Random House, 1991.
  • Richardson, John with Marilyn McCully, A Life of Picasso, Volume II: 1907-1917. New York: Random House, 1996.

Pâquerette (Emilienne Geslot)

Picasso standing near framed paintings
Picasso in his studio in Paris.

Apic / Getty Images

Picasso had a relationship with Pâquerette, age 20, for at least six months during the summer and fall of 1916, following Eva Gouel's death. Pâquerette was born in Mantes-sur-Seine and worked as an actress and model for the high-society couturier Paul Poiret and his sister, Germaine Bongard, who had her own couturier shop. Their relationship was noted in Gertrude Stein's memoirs, where she mentions, "[Picasso] was always coming to the house, bringing Pâquerette, a girl who was very nice."

Irène Lagut

The Lovers by Pablo Picasso
The Lovers.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

After being refused by Gaby Depeyre, Picasso fell madly in love with Irène Lagut. Before meeting Picasso, she had been kept by a Russian grand duke in Moscow. Picasso and his friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, kidnapped her to a villa in the suburbs of Paris. She escaped but returned willingly a week later.

Lagut had affairs with both men and women, and her affair with Picasso continued on and off from spring 1916 until the end of the year, when they decided to get married. However, Lagut jilted Picasso, deciding instead to return to a previous lover in Paris. The pair reconnected years later in 1923 and she was the subject of his painting, The Lovers (1923).

Olga Khoklova

Pablo Picasso standing in front of painting of his wife Olga
Pablo Picasso standing in front of painting of his wife Olga.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Olga Khoklova was a Russian ballet dancer who met Picasso while performing in a ballet for which he designed the costume and set. She left the ballet company and stayed with Picasso in Barcelona, later moving to Paris. They were married on July 12, 1918, when she was 26 years old and Picasso was 36.

Their marriage lasted ten years, but their relationship began to fall apart after the birth of their son, Paulo, on February 4, 1921, as Picasso resumed his affairs with other women. Olga filed for divorce and moved to the south of France; however, because Picasso refused to abide by French law and divide his estate equally with her, she stayed legally married to him until she died of cancer in 1955.

Sara Murphy

Sara and Gerald Murphy were "muses of modernism," as wealthy American expatriates who entertained and supported many artists and writers in France the 1920s. It is thought that the characters of Nicole and Dick Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night were based on Sara and Gerald. Sara had a charming personality, was a good friend of Picasso's, and he did several portraits of her in 1923. 

Marie-Thérèse Walter

Marie-Thérèse Walter passport photo
Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Apic / Getty Images

In 1927, 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter of Spain met 46-year-old Pablo Picasso. While Picasso was still living with Olga, Marie-Thérèse became his muse and the mother of his first daughter, Maya. Walter inspired Picasso's celebrated Vollard Suite, a set of 100 neo-classical etchings completed 1930-1937. Their relationship ended when Picasso met Dora Maar in 1936.

Dora Maar (Henriette Theodora Markovitch)

Museum workers hanging Picasso's Guernica
Guernica being hung, July 12, 1956.

Keyston / Getty Images

Dora Maar was a French photographer, painter, and poet who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and was influenced by Surrealism. She met Picasso in 1935 and became his muse and inspiration for about seven years. She took pictures of him working in his studio and also documented him creating his famous anti-war painting, Guernica (1937).

Picasso was abusive to Maar, though, and often pit her against Walter in a contest for his love. Picasso's Weeping Woman (1937) depicts Maar crying. Their affair ended in 1943 and Maar suffered a nervous breakdown, becoming a recluse in later years.

Françoise Gilot

Portrait of Françoise Gilot in her studio
Françoise Gilot.

Julia Donosa / Getty Images

Françoise Gilot was an art student when she met Picasso met in a cafe in 1943—he was 62, she was 22. While he was still married to Olga Khokhlova, Gilot and Picasso had an intellectual attraction that led to romance. They kept their relationship a secret at first, but Gilot moved in with Picasso after a few years and they had two children, Claude and Paloma.

Françoise grew tired of his abuse and affairs and left him in 1953. Eleven years later, she wrote a book about her life with Picasso. In 1970, she married American physician and medical researcher, Jonas Salk, who created and developed the first successful vaccine against polio.

Jacqueline Roque

Jacqueline Roque and Picasso stand among a crowd, while Picasso holds aloft a statue of a bull
Jacqueline Roque with Picasso.

Keystone / Getty Images

Picasso met Jacqueline Roque in 1953 at the Madoura Pottery where he created his ceramics. Following her divorce, she became his second wife in 1961, when Picasso was 79 and she was 34. Picasso was greatly inspired by Roque, creating more works based on her than on any of the other women in his life—in one year he painted more than 70 portraits of her. Jacqueline was the only woman he painted for the last 17 years of his life.

When Picasso died on April 8, 1973, Jacqueline prevented his children, Paloma and Claude, from attending the funeral because Picasso had disinherited them after their mother, Françoise, had published her book, Life with Picasso. In 1986, Roque committed suicide by shooting herself in the castle on the French Riviera where she had lived with Picasso until his death.

Sylvette David (Lydia Corbett David)

In the spring of 1954, Picasso met 19-year-old Sylvette David on the Côte d'Azur. He became smitten with David and they struck up a friendship, with David posing for Picasso regularly. Picasso did more than sixty portraits of her in a variety of media including drawing, painting, and sculpture. David never posed nude for Picasso and they never slept together—it was the first time he had worked successfully with a model. Life magazine called this period his "Ponytail Period" after the ponytail that David always wore.