Pablo Picasso had two wives, six mistresses and several short affairs during his life. Some of these women were immortalized in his art, but their lives were not always easy. Learn about Picasso’s five most important wives.
Olga Khokhlova – 1917-1955
Picasso met the Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova in Rome in 1917. She came from an aristocratic family from Ukraine and danced in the famous ballet company Les Ballets Russes. They married a year later – even though Picasso’s mother, Doña María, had warned her future daughter-in-law about marriage: ‘Poor girl, you do not know what you are getting into (…) I do not believe a woman can be happy my son.’
And Picasso’s mother was right. After ten years of marriage, 45-year-old Picasso had an affair with 17-year-old French Marie-Thérèse Walter. When Olga found out he was unfaithful, she filed for divorce. But Picasso refused to agree to this because he did not want to give his wife half of his fortune after the divorce. They remained officially married until Olga Khokhlova died in 1955.
Marie-Thérèse Walter – 1927-1935
‘Madam, you have an interesting face. I would like to paint a portrait of you. ‘ That was the phrase Pablo Picasso used in January 1927 to decorate the mere 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
And it worked – even though she had no idea who Picasso was. The two developed a passionate relationship, and the athletic blonde girl appeared in several Picasso drawings and paintings over the years. After nine years, the always restless Picasso lost interest and began looking for a younger model. Marie-Thérèse never recovered from the break-up and committed suicide in 1977.
Dora Maar – 1936-1944
In 1936, Picasso met the famous 29-year-old photographer Dora Maar at a café in Paris. He fell head over heels for the intelligent and art-loving brunette, but was torn between his ‘old love’ Marie-Thérèse Walter and his ‘new flame’ Dora Maar.
“I loved them both for very different reasons: Marie-Thérèse because she was sweet and kind and did everything I asked, and Dora because she was intelligent,” Picasso later said of his love dilemma. According to an anecdote, Marie-Thérèse appeared unannounced in her studio, where Dora Maar was already, while discovering the world-famous Guernica the goal. During World War II, Picasso’s fame rose to great heights, and he quickly fell in love with a new woman. They broke up in 1943, but Dora Maar was so shattered that the following year she suffered a nervous breakdown, which she had to recover from for almost two years.
Francoise Gilot – 1944-1953
In the spring of 1943, the 62-year-old Picasso met the 21-year-old artist Françoise Gilot in the restaurant Le Catalan, where Gilot was having dinner with a friend.
At first, Gilot was only professionally interested in Picasso, but like so many women, she eventually fell for the older master charmer. They moved to the house of La Galloise in the south of France, but the strong Gilot could not live with Picasso’s constant infidelity and left him in 1953.
In 1964 she published her autobiography, Life with Picasso, which the artist strongly condemned. The book describes Picasso as a genius and a tyrant, and Picasso became so angry at the release that he even cut off contact with their two children.
Children: Claude and Paloma
Jacqueline Roque – 1953-1973
According to Picasso, Françoise Gilot herself is the only woman who has ever left him. However, the famous artist did not remain single for long.
In the year Gilot left him, he started a relationship with the beautiful 26-year-old Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986). Picasso was then 72 years old. They met in Madoura’s ceramics studio, where Roque was a salesman. Picasso brought her a rose every day until she wanted out with him.
The couple married in 1961 and bought the Château de Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence and a villa in Cannes where Picasso could work undisturbed. Jacqueline Roque was very possessive and determined who could and could not visit the deteriorating Picasso. She forbade his children to have any contact with their father, and when Picasso died in 1973, they were not welcome at his funeral. Jacqueline Roque never recovered from her husband’s death and committed suicide in 1986.