Picasso’s Erotic Code


Marie-Thérèse Walter is the subject of “Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’Amour Fou,” a major exhibition opening at the Gagosian Gallery on West 21st Street, in New York, this month. Marie-Thérèse was Picasso’s love and principal muse from the time he came upon her—she was 17, he was 45—outside the Galeries Lafayette department store, in Paris, in January 1927, until 1941. Art historian Diana Widmaier-Picasso, Marie-Thérèse’s granddaughter, who is preparing a catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s sculptures, has made this retrospective possible. As the guest curator, she has been instrumental in obtaining rarely seen works as well as archival material from the Picasso family and loans from important collections and museums. Marie-Thérèse was an easygoing but respectable bourgeois girl who lived in Maisons-Alfort, a suburb southeast of Paris, with her mother and two sisters. She was at the Galeries Lafayette that day to buy a col Claudine—a Peter Pan collar—and matching cuffs. “You have an interesting face,” Picasso told her. “I would like to do a portrait of you. I am Picasso.” The name meant nothing to Marie-Thérèse, but the fact that an artist found her beautiful thrilled her. Although she always claimed to have resisted Picasso for six months, she was sleeping with him a week later.

more from John Richardson at Vanity Fair here.