Picasso's Women: Wives, Lovers and Flirtations

Picasso had a complicated relationship with women; he either revered them or abused them, and typically had relationships ongoing with several women at the same time.  He married twice and had multiple mistresses before his death in 1973.

Picasso's sexuality fueled his art. Find out more about Picasso's love interests and mild flirtations in this chronologically arranged list of liaisons.

© 2006 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Used with permission
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion), 1901. Oil on canvas. 28 7/16 x 23 3/8 in. (73 x 60 cm). Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. © 2006 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Picasso met the model Germaine Gargallo Florentin Pichot in Paris in 1900 when she became the girlfriend of Picasso's Catalan friend Carlos or Carles Casagemos. Casagemos committed suicide in February 1901 when Germaine spurned his advances and Picasso took up with Germaine when he returned to Paris in May 1901. Germaine married Picasso's friend Ramon Pichot in 1906. More »

Madeleine, Summer 1904

© 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Woman with a Helmet of Hair, 1904. Gouache on tan wood pulp board 42.7 x 31.3 cm (16 3/4 x 12 5/16 in.) Signed and dated recto, upper left, in blue gouache: "Picasso / 1904." Bequest of Kate L. Brewster, 1950.128 Art Institute of Chicago. © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Madeleine was the name of a model who posed for the young Spanish artist Pablo Picasso when he first arrived in Paris during the fall in 1904. She was his mistress, too.

According to Picasso, she became pregnant and had an abortion. Picasso drew images of mothers with their babies as if to remember what might have been. He remarked, when a drawing surfaced in 1968, that he would have had a 64 year-old child by then.

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.

Known Examples of Madeleine in Picasso's Art:

Madeleine's face appears in Picasso's late Blue Period works:

  • Woman in a Chemise, Paris, 1904, Tate Gallery, London.
  • Madeleine Crouching, Paris, 1904, Musée d'Art Moderne, Saint-Etienne.
  • Woman with a Helmet of Hair, Paris, 1904, Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Portrait of Madeleine, Paris, 1904, Musée Picasso, Paris.
  • Mother and Child, Paris, 1904, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.

 

Fernande Olivier (born Amelie Lang), Fall 1904 - Fall 1911

Pablo Picasso - Head of Woman (Fernande), 1909
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Head of Woman (Fernande), 1909. Oil on canvas. 65 x 55 cm. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The early twentieth century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso met his first great love Fernande Olivier near his studio in Montmartre in 1904.  She was a French artist and model. She inspired his Rose Period works and the early Cubist paintings and sculptures.  Their tempestuous relationship lasted seven years. They ended their relationship in 1912. Twenty years later she wrote a series of memoirs about their life together which she began publishing. Picasso, by then famous, paid her not to release any more of them until they both died.

Pablo Picasso - Woman with a Guitar (Ma Jolie), 1911-12
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Woman with a Guitar (Ma Jolie), 1911-12. Oil on canvas. 39 3/8 x 25 3/4 in. (100 x 64.5 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. 176.1945. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Picasso fell in love with Eva Gouel, also known as Marcelle Humbert, 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") in 1911. Gouel died of tuberculosis in 1915.  More »

Gabrielle (Gaby) Depreye Lespinesse, 1915 - 1916

 

The story of Picasso's love affair with Gaby Depeyre was revealed by John Richardson in an article in House and Gardens in 1987 and his second volume of A Life of Picasso (1996). Richardson claims that their romance was a secret that they kept to themselves throughout their lives.

Apparently, it began during Eva Gouel's final months. Gaby and Picasso may have met when André Salmon recommended to Picasso that he catch one of her shows. Salmon remembers that she was a singer or dancer in a Parisian cabaret, and he referred to her as "Gaby la Catalane." But Richardson believes this information may not be reliable. She may have been a friend of Eva's or Irène Lagut, Picasso's next lover.

Evidence of Gaby's affair with Picasso came to light after her death, when her niece decided to sell the paintings, collages and drawings Picasso created during their clandestine relationship. Based on the subject matter in the works, it appears they spent time together in the South of France. Richardson deduces their hide-away may have been Herbert Lespinasse's home in St. Tropez.

Lespinasse, whom Gaby married in 1917, was an American who lived most of his life in France. Known for his engravings, he and Picasso had many friends in common, including Moise Kisling, Juan Gris and Jules Pascin. His home on the Baie des Canoubiers in St. Tropez attracted many of these Parisian artists.

Gaby and Picasso's tryst took place in 1915. Their relationship may have started when Eva spent time in a nursing home after her operation to remove her cancer. If so, this would have been around January or February of that year.

There is evidence from Gaby's collection (most of which belongs to the Musée Picasso in Paris) that Picasso asked her to marry him. Evidently, she refused.

Herbert Lespinasse died in 1972. Gaby's niece sold her aunt's collection after his death.

 

Paquerette (Emilienne Geslot), Summer 1916

Photograph of Picasso in his Paris studio 1914-16
Picasso in his studio in Paris 1914-1916. Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Picasso had a relationship with Paquerette, age 20, for at least six months during the summer and fall of 1916 after Eva Gouel died.  She was born in Mantes-sur-Seine and worked as an actress and model for the high-society couturier Paul Poiret, as well as for his sister, Germaine Bongard, who had her own couturier shop. According to Gertrude Stein's memoirs, about Picasso she said, "He was always coming to the house , bringing Paquarette, a girl who was very nice."

 

Image © Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; used with permission
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). The Lovers, 1923. Oil on linen. 51 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (130.2 x 97.2 cm). Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Image © Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 After being jilted by Gaby Lespinesse, Picasso fell madly in love with Irene Lagut in the spring of 1916. Before meeting Picasso she had been kept by a Russian grandduke 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 until the end of the year, when they decided to get married. However, Lagut jilted Picasso, deciding instead to return to her previous lover in Paris. However, she did become his mistress again in 1923, and the subject of his painting, shown here, The Lovers (1923).

  More »

Olga Khoklova, 1917 - 1962, Picasso's First Wife

Photograph of PIcasso standing in front of painting of his wife Olga
Portrait of Picasso standing in front of 1917 painting of first wife, Olga. Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Olga Khoklova was the first wife of Picasso and the mother of his son, Paulo. Picasso was 36 when they were married, Olga 26. She was a Russian ballet dancer who met Picasso while performing in a ballet for which he designed the costume and set. Upon meeting him, she left the ballet company and stayed with Picasso in Barcelona, later moving to Paris. They were married on July 12, 1918. Their marriage lasted 10 years, but their relationship began to fall apart after the birth of their son February 4, 1921 as Picasso resumed his affairs with other women. Olga filed for divorce from Picasso and moved to the south of France, but because he 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, 1923

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

Marie-Therese Walter, 1927 - 1973

Marie Therese Walter, passport photo. Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Marie-Therese Walter was a 17-year old Spanish girl whom Picasso met in 1927. Picasso was 46. She became his muse and the mother of his first daughter, Maya, while he was still married to Olga. Walter inspired the Picasso's celebrated Vollard Suite, a set of 100 etchings completed 1930-1937. They were done in neo-classical style with Walter as his muse. Their relationship ended when Picasso met Dora Maar in 1936.

Dora Maar (Henriette Theodora Markovitch) 1936 - 1943

Photograph of Guernica painting being hung
Guernica painting being hung, July 12, 1956. Keyston/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dora Maar was an artist herself, a French photographer, painter, and poet. She studied at the Ecole 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). Weeping Woman (1937) depicts Maar as a crying woman. Picasso was abusive to Maar, though, and often pit her against Walter for his love. Their affair ended in 1943, and Maar suffered a nervous breakdown, becoming a recluse in later years.

Francoise Gilot, 1943 - 1953

Photograph of French painter Francoise Gilot
French painter Francoise Gilot. Julia Donosa/Sygma/Getty Images

Gilet and Picasso met in a cafe in 1943. He was 62, she was a young art student age 22 (born 1921). He was still married to Olga Khokhlova, but they were attracted to each other intellectually and then romantically. They kept their relationship a secret, but Gilot moved in with Picasso after a few years and they had two children, Claude and Paloma. She grew tired of his affairs and abusive character 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, 1953 - 1973, Picasso's Second Wife

Photograph of Jacqueline Roque and Picasso
Jacqueline Roque and Picasso. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Picasso met Jacqueline Roque (1925-1986) in 1953 at the Madoura Pottery where he created his ceramics. She became his second wife, after her divorce, in 1961, when Picasso was 79 and she was 27. Picasso was greatly inspired by Roque, creating more works based on her than on any of the other women in his life. She was the only woman she painted for the last 17 years of his life. In one year he painted more than 70 portraits of her. 

When Picasso died on April 8, 1973, Jacqueline prevented his children, Paloma and claude, from attending the funeral because Picasso had disinherited them after Francoise had published her book, Life with Picasso in 1965.

In 1986 at the age of 60, Roque committed suicide by shooting herself in the castle on the French Riviera where she had lived with Picasso until he died in 1973.

 

 

 

Sylvette David (Lydia Corbett David), 1954-55

Sylvette David and Picasso met in the spring of 1954 on the Cote d'Azur when Picasso was in his 70s, and David was a 19-year old young woman. Picasso's long-term partner, Gilot, with whom he had two children, had just left him the previous summer. He became smitten with David, and they struck up a friendship, with David posing for Picasso regularly, although she was too timid to pose nude, and they never slept together.  Picasso did more than sixty portraits of her in a variety of media including drawing, painting, and sculpture. It was the first time he had worked successfully from a model. Life magazine called this period his "Ponytail Period" after the ponytail that David always wore.

Resources and Further Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glueck, Grace, "Secret Picasso Affair Revealed," NYT, September 17, 1987

Pablo Picasso: women are either goddesses or doormats, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/pablo-picasso-women-are-either-goddesses-or-doormats/

Picasso's Babes: 6 Muses the Artist Was Madly in Love With, The Art Gorgeous, http://www.konbini.com/us/inspiration/pablo-picasso-muses/

Picasso the seducer was more sinned against than sinning, Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/picasso-the-seducer-was-more-sinned-against-than-sinning-1359020.html

Portraits of a Marriage, Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2007/12/picassos-wife-200712

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.

Sylvette David: The Woman Who Inspired Picasso, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140320-im-like-the-mona-lisa

Updated by Lisa Marder 9/28/17