Olga Picasso, Picasso Museum, through September 3, 2017
Words are sometimes unnecessary, and can even be out of place. The Olga Picasso exhibition on view at the Picasso Museum is proof of how superfluous words can be. It’s the story of the relationship between Pablo Picasso and his first wife Olga in the wordless language of painting – the joys, ecstasies and pain of a couple that was together for 18 years (1917-1935).
It all began when Jean Cocteau asked Picasso to sketch costume designs for the Ballets Russes’ Parade in Rome. This is where the artist met Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina in Serge Diaghilev’s legendary ballet troupe. Pablo and Olga were wed in 1918 and had a son, Paul, in 1921.
Pablo Picasso. Mère et enfant au bord de la mer. Printemps 1921. The Art Institute of Chicago, Restricted gift of Maymar Corporation, Mrs. Maurice L. Rothschild, and Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey McCormick; Mary and Leigh Block Fund; Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment; through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin E. Hokin 1954.270
However, soon after that, their relationship began to fray. In 1927, Picasso began a secret affair with 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter. When Olga learned about the liaison eight years later, in 1935, the two parted ways, but remained officially married until her death in 1955.
In the first portraits of Olga from Picasso’s classical period, his wife is slender, elegant and somewhat melancholy. Her image is softened after the birth of their son. In 1929, however, when Picasso was completely enamoured with Marie-Thérèse Walter, Olga is portrayed as suffering abysmally. Picasso stopped painting images of Olga in 1935, when she and their son Paulo moved to the south of France. The exhibition includes more than 350 drawings, paintings, photographs and private documents.
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Image: Pablo Picasso. Interior with a Girl Drawing, 1935. Huile sur toile, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 969. 1979