Picasso's Women: Eva Gouel (Marcelle Humbert)

Her Connection to Pablo Picasso: Lover

Date and Place of Birth:

1885, Vincennes

Her Years with Picasso:

Pablo Picasso met Marcelle Humbert in 1911 when she was the lover of the Jewish-Polish artist Lodwicz Casimir Ladislas Markus, better known as Louis Marcoussis (1870-1941), a satirist and minor Cubist. Picasso and Fernande would go out with Marcelle and Louis often. They all were invited to Gertrude Stein's home on the rue de Fleurus.

Fernande and Marcelle became fast friends and Fernande confided in Marcelle. In 1911, she began an affair with the young Italian Futurist Umbaldo Oppi (1889-1942) and asked Marcelle to cover for her in order to deceive Picasso. Marcelle thought otherwise and took advantage of the situation to catch Picasso for herself.

When Picasso started his clandestine affair with Marcelle, now Eva Gouel, he wrote secret messages in his works, such Woman with a Guitar ("Ma Jolie"), 1911. ("Ma Jolie" was named after a popular song.)

Eva, like most of the women Picasso met at this time, seemed to have a mysterious background that included different names that came from various stories. Born Eve Gouel to Adrian Gouel and Marie-Louise Ghérouze of Vincennes, she adopted the name Marcelle Humbert (claiming to have been married to a fellow named Humbert).

Picasso wanted to distinguish this mistress from Braque's wife Marcelle and transformed "Eve" into the more Spanish sounding "Eva." To Picasso's mind, he was the Adam to her Eve.

In 1912, Fernande and Picasso split up for good and Eva eventually moved in with Picasso. Meanwhile Fernande left Oppi and decided to seek out Picasso to rekindle their relationship - or so Picasso feared.

Tucked away from the frantic Paris lifestyle in Céret, close to the Spanish border, Picasso and Eva got wind of Fernande's impending visit.

They quickly packed and left instructions not to let anyone know about their whereabouts. They headed for Avignon and then met Braque and his wife Marcelle in Sorgues later that summer.

Picasso's period of Cubist collages and papier collé flourished during his affair with Eva Gouel.

Known Examples of Eva in Picasso's Art:

Best known works of Eva:

  • Woman with a Guitar ("Ma Jolie"), 1912.
  • Woman in an Armchair, 1913, Collection Sally Ganz, New York
  • Seated Woman (Eva) Wearing a Hat Trimmed with a White Bird, 1915-16, private collection.
  • Eva on Her Deathbed, 1915, pencil drawing, private collection

In 1913, they visited Picasso's family in Barcelona and talked about marriage. Picasso's father died May 3, 1913.

Unfortunately, Picasso and Eva's blissful relationship was cut short by her serious illness. Eva contracted tuberculosis or developed cancer. In 1915, she spent weeks in the hospital, recorded in Picasso's plaintive letter to Gertrude Stein in which he described his life as "hell."

Date and Place of Death:

December 14, 1915, Paris