Biography of Eva Gouel, Lover of Pablo Picasso

Picasso's Cubist Inspiration

Eva Goeul was Pablo Picasso's lover during his Cubist collage period in the early 1910s. She inspired a few of his most famous pieces of art, including "Woman with a Guitar," which is also known as "Ma Jolie" (1912).

Dates: 1885–December 14, 1915

Also Known As: Eve Gouel, Marcelle Humbert

Eva Gouel Meets Picasso

Pablo Picasso met Marcelle Humbert in 1911. At the time, she was the lover of the Jewish-Polish artist Lodwicz Casimir Ladislas Markus (1870–1941). The satirist and minor Cubist was better known as Louis Marcoussis.

Picasso and his first real love, Fernande Olivier, would go out with Marcelle and Louis often. On a number of occasions, they were all invited to Gertrude Stein's home on the rue de Fleurus, which was a popular place for artists and writers in Paris at the time.

Fernande and Marcelle became fast friends and Fernande confided in Marcelle. In 1911, she began an affair with the young Italian Futurist Ubaldo 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.

Goeul Becomes Picasso's Eve

When Picasso started his clandestine affair with Marcelle — now Eva Gouel — he wrote secret messages in his works. These include the famous "Woman with a Guitar" ("Ma Jolie"), which he painted between 1911 and 1912. "Ma Jolie" was named after a popular song and this was the artist's first work in Analytical Cubism.

Like most of the women Picasso met at this time, Eva seems to have a mysterious background that included different names which came from various stories. She was born Eve Gouel sometime in 1885 to Adrian Gouel and Marie-Louise Ghérouze of Vincennes, France. At some point, she adopted the name Marcelle Humbert and claimed to have been married to a fellow named Humbert.

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

Escape From the Old Love

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 their whereabouts. They headed for Avignon and then met Braque and his wife in Sorgues later that summer.

Happiness Ends Too Soon

In 1913, the happy couple visited Picasso's family in Barcelona, Spain, 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 either contracted tuberculosis or developed cancer and in 1915, she spent weeks in the hospital. This was recorded in Picasso's plaintive letter to Gertrude Stein in which he described his life as "hell."

Eva would die in Paris on December 14, 1915. Picasso would live until 1973 and have a number of well-known relationships with women over the years. 

Known Examples of Eva in Picasso's Art:

Picasso's period of Cubist collages and papier collé flourished during his affair with Eva Gouel. A number of his works during this time are either known or thought to be of Eva, though the best-known are:

  • "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