What would it have been like for a young woman who is an aspiring artist to be in Paris at the same time as Pablo Picasso? You can find out by reading The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy. There’s a Picasso show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now and The Art of Rebellion would be an interesting book to read before or after visiting the exhibit.
Pablo Picasso liked his women “short and submissive” but Gabrielle the heroine of The Art of Rebellion is anything but submissive! She rebels against her parents’ plans to arrange a marriage for her and runs off to Paris to try to fulfill her dream of being an artist. This was a positively scandalous choice for a woman at the turn of the century when the artistic community was almost exclusively male and a marriage to someone wealthy or titled was considered the height of success for girls. Brenda Leahy has done her research and paints a realistic picture of Paris at the time. She doesn’t shy away from having her heroine face the grim reality of surviving there on her own.
You can even find a hint in one scene in The Art of Rebellion that Gabrielle actually encounters Picasso at an artist’s hangout in Paris. I’m a feminist and an art lover like Gabrielle so even though The Art of Rebellion was written for a young adult audience I enjoyed it too.