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Picasso – Not Really a Family Man

seated woman 1926-1927

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

It has been suggested that this work by Pablo Picasso currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is actually a portrait of the great artist’s family. Version 2If you look closely you can see the three intertwining heads of Picasso, his wife Olga and their son Paulo.

Pablo_Picasso,_1917-18,_Portrait_d'Olga_dans_un_fauteuil_(Olga_in_an_Armchair),_oil_on_canvas,_130_x_88.8_cm,_Musée_Picasso,_Paris,_France

By Pablo Picasso – Agence Photographique de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Picasso also painted this portrait of his wife. She was Olga Khokhlova a ballet dancer from Russia. Picasso met her when he designed the costumes and sets for a ballet she was performing in Paris. 

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Portrait of Paulo by Pablo Picasso -1923

Picasso and Olga’s son Paulo was born in 1921.

seated woman 1926-1927

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

Interestingly the painting of his family currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was made the same year Picasso began having an affair with a seventeen year old girl, Marie-Thérèse Walter. As he was painting a portrait of the people in his family intertwined together…. he was in the process of breaking his family apart.  

Version 2

Lithograph of Marie Therese – 1928 Pablo Picasso – currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Olga left him when she found out about Marie but stayed married to Picasso till her death in 1955, largely because it was the only way she could continue to force him to provide her with financial support.   Sadly Paulo, who was Olga and Picasso’s son, became an alcoholic and died in 1975.  Paulo’s children remember going begging at their grandfather’s door for food and money and being turned away. 

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

Seated Woman may be a family portrait but it is not a happy one. Picasso wasn’t really a family man. 

Other posts……..

I’m Shattered

Who’s Twiggy

Picasso Acrostic 

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I’m Shattered

“I’m shattered,” said a grade twelve art student when we were about half way through a tour of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  “I knew Picasso was a great artist but now I’m finding out he wasn’t a very nice person and I’m not sure I can still like his art work.” 

It is nearly impossible to talk about Picasso’s art without examining his relationships because they greatly influenced his work. Picasso had what many would consider a highly dysfunctional personal life.  He was rarely faithful to one partner for more than a short period of time.  

Picasso’s portrait of 17 year old Marie Therese Walter

One of his long-term relationships was with Marie Therese Walter. She was only 17 when their relationship began. Picasso was still married to his wife Olga at the time.  Marie later committed suicide and Olga had a mental breakdown. Pablo and Olga’s son Paulo was a young child when his father’s affair began. As an adult Paulo became an alcoholic who went begging repeatedly with his children to his father’s door for money.  He was ignored.  One of his grandsons and Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline also committed suicide.  

Picasso’s portrait of his partner Dora Maar

His long time partner Dora ended up in a mental institution. He left no will when he died so there have been ongoing law suits amongst his heirs.  Numerous sources talk about how cruel and cold Picasso could be to his family.  

Would it be better to show Picasso’s art without talking about his troubled personal life?  Not with teenagers and adults.  High school students are old enough to do some serious thinking about whether we can separate a person’s private behavior from their public persona and achievements.  I think it is an important discussion to have.  In that way the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery serves double duty, introducing visitors to a man who changed the world of art but also making them consider the price his family and those who loved him paid for his genius and whether it was worth it.  Can you wreak havoc in so many people’s lives and still be considered ‘great?’  Art should make us think deeply about things and the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery certainly does that! 

Other posts………

Are All Artists Troubled?

Picasso Acrostic

Using the Other Side of my Brain

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Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery