Picasso’s first lover more than a victim at the Paris Expo

Fifty years after the death of Pablo Picasso, and five years after the #MeToo movement began to denounce violence against women by celebrities, a new exhibition in Paris focuses on one of the controversial artist’s first partners. .

If Picasso’s reputation took a hit in the post-MeToo world, it’s partly because of his treatment of Fernande Olivier, his first serious partner.

But for Cécile Debray, director of the Picasso Museum in Paris, we cannot see the few artists through the prism of today’s sensibilities.

Possessive and jealous, Picasso locked Olivier in their run-down Paris apartment when he went out and made sure she adored him while he worked late into the night.

However, this should not obscure the story of their time together, say the organizers of a new exhibition at the Montmartre museum, in the north of Paris.

The new show puts pages from his memoirs alongside dozens of paintings and sculptures by Picasso and others from this famous artist’s circle.

“Picasso, by a kind of morbid jealousy, kept me recluse”, writes Olivier in his diary. “But with tea, books, a sofa and a bit of cleaning to do, I was happy, very happy.”

But her writings show she was more than a victim, Debray said.

“A strong woman”

Debray, who oversees the anniversary celebrations, slammed recent “ahistoric” attacks on the entertainer for his treatment of women.

“It was almost a relationship of equals,” she told AFP.

“Of course, he was jealous, worked a lot… but he was also tender and loving, the only lover of this kind that Fernande Olivier ever had.”

He was more than the “minotaur,” the monster, that some recent accounts have portrayed, Debray said.

Their relationship ended after eight years in 1912, just as Picasso was gaining serious fame.

Twenty years later, Olivier publishes a book about the time, “Picasso and his friends”, which the artist tries to have banned.

Her memoir revealed a difficult life beyond their time together.

She was abandoned by her parents and raised by a loveless aunt, then forced to marry an abusive husband before fleeing and meeting Picasso.

“They offer a very raw and realistic look at the condition of women in general at the turn of the century, as well as a hardworking woman who did many odd jobs to remain independent beyond her marriage,” Debray said.

“She was a strong woman, very intelligent in her writing and her vision of society and artists.”

The Montmartre museum exhibition is the first of several planned in Paris for the anniversary of Picasso’s death on April 8.

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