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Picasso’s Goddesses:


Professor Arnie Greenberg

Pablo: The Man Who painted Hell, Arnie Greenberg

There were many women is Picasso’s life and there are paintings available showing most, if not all of them. The master had strange personable views of women. For him they were either goddesses or doormats. Some he lived with and two he married. Two killed themselves. Two went mad and another died a few years after the beginning of their relationship. It’s hard to see the similarity in these women as a group. He could be loyal and affectionate when it suited him or he could be brutal when he felt like. The same can be said of his friends and even strangers. He did have a lifetime relationship, with occasional arguments with the writer Gertrude Stein, especially when it was good for his career and he did maintain a friendship with Jaime Sabartes who often lived with him or close by and who functioned as a secretary. But this history with the major women in his life was filled with ups and downs.

 In the summer of 1905 when he was only 25, he met Fernande Olivier. He and Olivier were often together while Picasso painted Gertrude’s portraits. During the sittings Fernande would read the comic strip of Katzenjammar kids to the painter. Together, at the Bateau Lavoire they lived a poor and bohemian life with little food and little to heat the tiny rooms on the rue Ravignan. She had done some modeling but after 1905 she sat only for Picasso. Later at age 70 he paid her a small pension. They separated a few months after the painter became interested in Marcelle Humbert, known as Eva Gouel. Picasso deeply mourned her death in 1915. He had never painted her but he stated his love for Eva who he called ‘Ma Jolie”in his work. Perhaps it was Eva’s illness and Picasso’s need for affection but during her sickness he lived with Gaby Lespinasse. This was when he discovered St. Tropez. But Gaby married someone else and Pablo was alone for a while.

Then in 1917 he was asked to design the sets for Parade in Rome. There he met Olga Kokhlova a dancer in the Ballet Rousse that performed in Parade. They were married in the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church in 1918 and lived a conflict filled life nearby on rue La Boetie. She like dress-up affairs and formal events. Picasso was more Bohemian. Often when I see Picasso wearing a tie, I know it is the time he lived with Olga. The apartment was on one floor and the studio on another. During their marriage Paulo was born. Pablo died in 1943 leaving three children. It was Marina who recently allowed Vauvenargues to be opened for a short time.

 In 1927 Picasso met Marie-Therese Walter on the street near his home. She was only 17, blond and athletic looking. Olga knew nothing about Marie-Therese until after Marie-Therese’s daughter Maya was born in 1935. He felt suffocated by Olga so they separated but never married. Marie-Therese hung herself in 1977. Olga had died in 1955. Both portraits and athletic looking sculptures of her remain. (See Picasso museum Paris)

 By 1936 Picasso met photographer-painter Dora Maar who was from Yugoslavia. She documented the painting of Guernica, the bombed Spanish city. She was mistreated during Picasso’s temper tantrums and by the forties Picasso met a student painter Francoise Gilot.

She was about 22. He was 62. When asked to come to live with Picasso, she said, “I live with my grandmother. She is old and needs me.” Picasso replied, “I’m older than your grandmother and I need you too.”

They had two children, Claude, born in 1847 and Paloma, named Picasso’s dove of peace, in 1949. But his involvement with other women and his abuse to her caused a separation. “Nobody leaves Picasso,” he said. But she did in 1953. Later she married physician Jonas Salk who died in 1995.

Picasso then met a young student, Genevieve Laporte, age 17, who was interviewing him for her school newspaper.  She visited him while he was still with Francoise He went off with her to San Tropez in 1951 but she left him in 1953, the same year as Francoise left him. This ended what historians call his ‘tender period’. 

But the master couldn’t be alone for long. In 1953 he met a shop girl Jacqueline Roque with one daughter. They were able to marry when Olga died and during his life with her hi did more than 70 paintings of her. After 20 years together in 1973 Picasso died. It was Jacqueline who prevented Picasso’s children to attend his funeral. She became very depressed and couldn’t go on with ‘the Master”. She shot herself in 1986.

Since there was no will, all of his children, including Maya were named in his settlement.

The galleries are filled with the paintings of all of these women. They alone tell the story of Picasso and his goddesses and doormats.

Of interest :

A Life of Picasso, John Richardson, 2 Vols. Random House, New York, 1996

Viva Picasso, a Centennial celebration, 1881-1981, David Douglas Duncan, Viking Press, New York, 1980

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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