West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Picasso and His Women
of the lecture given by Valerie Woodgate
on January 23rd 2013
Our speaker was Valerie Woodgate, who is a lecturer
and guide at Tate Britain and a number of other London galleries.
She also lectures for the National Trust, on P&O Cruises and is a
member of the teaching team at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
She started her talk about Picasso’s Women by quoting a well-known
artist who said that Picasso was a serial monogamist, with significant
Picasso had two wives, Olga Khokhlova whom he
married in 1918 and Jacqueline Roque whom he married in 1961, and four
children by three women. In addition to his wives, he had a
number of other lovers.
Portrait of Olga in an armchair, 1917
Oil painting of Jacqueline, 1956
Val took us through a history of Picasso’s women and his paintings of
women in chronological order, starting with two large paintings done
when he was 14 and 15 years old, one of which was a sick woman in
bed. To me, and I suspect to many of us, these were
unrecognisable as Picasso’s work because they were painted in very
traditional style, based on his traditional training. They were
also much larger canvasses than most of his later and well-known
Picasso met his first great love, Fernande Olivier, in Paris in 1904
about three years after his Blue Period began and shortly before his
Rose Period. He painted Fernande many times.
One of Picasso’s most famous and influential paintings of women is Les
Demoiselles d’Avignon, painted in 1907. It depicts a
brothel. It is cubist in style but drew on Rubens and
Cezanne. It was also influenced by Egyptian art in which the head
is always in profile.
Val deconstructed the painting to some extent, pointing out where some
of the aspects of the female form are shown at distorted-looking
angles, as in most of his cubist paintings.
Val discussed the women with whom Picasso had close relationships, and
gave us very interesting insights into some of them. As she put
it at the start of her talk, the whole lecture consists of
gossip. The women she discussed, all of whom had tragic ends,
- Fernande Olivier
- Marcelle Humbert, known as Eva
- Olga Khokhlova with whom he had a son Paolo
- Marie-Thérèse Walter with whom he had a daughter
- Dora Maar
- Francoise Gilot with whom he had a son Claude and a
- Jacqueline Roque
Picasso painted his women many times in different styles and with great
emotion. Regarding his depiction of emotion, it was said that he
put more emotion into the horse’s head in his painting Guernica (1937)
than Rubens put into a whole crucifixion.
“Art is the
lie that helps us
realise the truth” Pablo Picasso.
Our first guest speaker of 2013