Eight years after meeting at the exit of the Galeries Lafayette, in Paris, Pablo Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter welcome the birth of their daughter Maya. He is 45, she is 28 younger. Between January 16, 1938 and November 7, 1939, Picasso painted fourteen portraits of his eldest daughter, then three/four years old – the series “the most impressive dedicated to a single child‘, emphasizes art historian Werner Spies.
Maya with doll (1938), Maya with doll and horse (1938), Maya in sailor costume (1938), Maya by the boat (1938), Maya au Apron (1938)… Presented until the end of December at the Picasso Museum in Paris, the exhibition Maya Ruiz-Picasso, daughter of Pablo, offers a unique journey through the artist’s childhood and family universe. A journey in a dozen unstructured portraits, all in color, of the little girl.
Drawings, paintings, poems, sculptures and photographs by the artist and his daughter bear witness to the “complicity” which united them. Picasso maintained a very “merger” of “his blended family, atypical for the time, but not for him† modern man and loving fathersays the painter’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, curator of the exhibition with Emilia Philippot, curator and specialist in Picasso.This is the first time that these portraits, scattered all over the world, have been brought together“, she specifies. Letters, intimate objects, clothing, slippers and very special relics complete this exhibition, revealing an unknown facet of Picasso: his superstition and his relationship with death and the world of the invisible.”To the point where hair and nails are trimmed to protect them from the bad guys‘ explains his granddaughter.
The Maya Passion
A short film presented at the beginning of the exhibition immediately delves into the heart of a family life jealously protected by Picasso: “I was the realization of the error. When I was born, my father was married and had a son. In the early years of my life, few people knew about my existence. This well-kept secret says a lot about my father’s life“, the narrator explains from the beginning. This last sentence reflects the image of the great seducer of the painter, who did not hesitate to conquer and abuse very young women, according to the author Sophie Chauveau in Picasso, the Minotaur – a book that has sparked debate because it damages the image of the man behind the artist.
For this first daughter, born on September 5, 1935 in the greatest secrecy, the painter discovered a passion that would eventually come to light: it was a “rotation“, a “Resurrection“explains his granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso. However, the birth is difficult, since at first Maya gives no sign of life during childbirth – performed under general anesthesia of the mother. Also Pablo Picasso was considered stillborn at birth.. .
Maya is the nickname of Maria (de la Concepcion), the first name Picasso gave to his daughter in memory of his sister who died when he was 14 years old. In the mouth of the little girl who has trouble pronouncing it, Maria becomes Maya and the diminutive remains: “However, it took me nearly sixty years to have the right to call myself Maya in the eyes of French law. So I was born twice…‘ she confided to me later.
Far away, yet close
The family unit fell apart when Picasso met Dora Maar, with whom the relationship was stormy. And then, in the late 1940s, Picasso and his eldest daughter moved far away, when the artist settled in the south of France with Françoise Gilot, with whom he would soon have two new children, Claude and Paloma.
Maya nevertheless remains very present within this reconstituted family that she visits regularly – vacations in the south, bullfights, swimming…”We fell in love as soon as we saw each other, with Françoise. We lent each other our clothes, we both got along very well! She listened to me and understood meMaya entrusted her daughter. With Françoise’s children, the eldest immediately behaves like a big sister: “I was 15 and wanted to protect them. I didn’t want anything to happen to them. I saw them very often, I went on vacation and I played with them†
The exhibition at the Picasso Museum shows how Maya, her father’s “sardine”, at the age of 20 turns out to be an excellent assistant on the film titled The Picasso Mystery which Henri-Georges Clouzot produced in 1955 in the Victorine studios in Nice in an attempt to grasp the mystery of creation. A year later he won the jury prize at the Cannes festival. †Like father like daughter. The love for art is undoubtedly hereditary‘ said the filmmaker.
Accomplice and confidant
Maya stayed long”her father’s privileged accomplice and confidante, the only one allowed to enter his studio“Any hour of the day or night,” recalls Diana Widmaier-Picasso.He often painted from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and I was the only one able to attend these sessions. I had all the rights, unlike my mother“, Maya told her daughter. She remembers that during the war, “my father often took me to dance on the harbor, in the Café de Royan† There was an orchestra with three musicians and I danced in his arms or on his feet. We ate bread with butter and chocolate, a rare commodity at the time.†
Marie-Thérèse Walter, mother and muse
The painter’s granddaughter modestly exclaims the “cryptic representation” of his grandmother in several paintings, as he is still married to Olga Khokhlova when he meets her† “It’s almost the symbol of a mystical union“, she confides. The exhibition in the Picasso Museum presents key moments of creation and the “codes“associated with the presence of this”blonde muse with greek profile” to the “generous shapes often associated with the themes of the moon and sun“that Picasso evoked in the early days in the form of initials.
What, in Maya’s eyes, is apparent from her father’s depictions of her mother, is accuracy and sensuality: “My mother had voluptuous curves and very round breasts, but she was also very passionate and very athletic. When he met her, I think my father somehow found his form, like these sculptures in which the female and male gender are intertwined. This is what led him to represent it so often, especially in sculpture.”
Authorship through drawing
Pablo Picasso, this man also described by Sophie Chauveau, author of Picasso the MinotaurAs a “violent”, “jealous”, “perverted”, “destructive” and “great seducer” man, he always remained very attentive to his four children – Paulo, his eldest son, born of his union with Olga Khokhlova; Maya; Claude and Paloma, born of his union with Françoise Gilot. He never stopped observing them, studying them, painting them. Starting with Maya: “I remember posing for him from age 7 to age 18. When he suddenly wanted to immortalize an expression or an attitude at the table, he said to me, “Don’t move,” and hurried to find paper, pencils, a plate or a notebook. The minutes that passed seemed like an eternity. I then saw these drawings of me going to exhibitions with a towel around my neck… and I was ashamed…†
The exhibition also shows a series of drawings made by the painter for and with Maya, four years old, in Royan, during the war in 1939. We discover coloring books to which the father added characters, nature drawings marked by the little girl ” 10 of the 20″, small silhouettes of animals and a puppet theater cut from paper with scissors, as well as wooden puppets.
†We spent a lot of time drawing together, especially during the war. He made models in my notebooks. He taught me to draw a grasshopper, a chick, or even a hawk. There were also characters, clowns, trapeze performers, acrobats, dancers. We were in the kitchen drawing in purple ink, with a sergent major pen. I never asked him for anything, he drew what he wanted.” During the war, the little girl recalls: “I wasn’t sad that I didn’t have any fruit because my dad drew some for me†
Picasso passed on a lot to his daughter by drawing, she said: “The love for form, for clean lines. I am thinking in particular of the animal sketches with which he covered my notebooks, the legs of pigeons that his father Don José had taught him to make. He insisted I know how to draw a perfect circle freehandHowever, to express himself on paper, he always releases her.
But Maya wants to live her life outside of her relationship with her father, who doesn’t understand her need for freedom. Perhaps to escape “the irresistible and devastating hold of the genius on those who loved him,” as Sophie Chauveau, author of Picasso, the Minotaur. Maya’s marriage in 1960 marked their final breakup. They will never see each other again. When the father died in 1973, he hadn’t seen his “little sardine” for twenty years. Maya, she will devote the rest of her life to protecting the work of the painter discovered during his succession: “Maybe a way to continue our conversation after deathshe said† Living with his work allowed me to stay with him in the supernatural world he left us†