Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’Amour fou,” the rapturous, vagino-maniacal show of more than 80 Pablo Picasso works at Gagosian, is a love story. It tells a tale of a devouring monster, a goddess and doormat, frenzied sex, and abject cruelty. The woman of the show’s title is Marie-Thérèse Walter, called “the greatest sexual passion of Picasso’s life,” “endlessly submissive and willing,” the sumptuous voluptuary who surrendered to his sadomasochistic demands. He himself once called her “a slice of melon,” and she said of herself, “I always cried with Picasso. I bowed my head in front of him.” “L’Amour fou” was curated by John Richardson and Diana Widmaier Picasso, granddaughter of the artist and Marie-Thérèse. Widmaier Picasso once told a British paper that her grandmother talked of their “secrets,” some of which have been widely reported. Richardson (in his acclaimed three-part Picasso biography) says that Picasso enjoyed “the perverse pleasure of denying [Walter] the release of orgasm.” Yet Walter herself rhapsodized, many years later, that sex with Picasso was “completely fulfilling,” describing him as “very virile.” For decades, no one knew of Walter or that she was Picasso’s mistress from 1927 until around 1937. Not only was she his submissive sexual conquest, artistic muse, psychic victim, and mother of his daughter; she’s the fleshy subject of some of his juiciest paintings. Picasso said she saved his life. And it’s true that from the moment she appears in his work, in early 1927, his art gets plusher and more immediate, catapulting him out of Cubism, paving the way for all his subsequent efforts. Marie-Thérèse is the fertile inspiration that made Picasso Picasso after Cubism.
more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.