Cover image for Loving Picasso : the private journal of Fernande Olivier
Title:
Loving Picasso : the private journal of Fernande Olivier
Author:
Olivier, Fernande.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Physical Description:
296 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes material originally published in French in Picasso et ses amis (1933) and Souvenirs intimes (1988), as well as a selection of letters.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780810942516
Format :
Book

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Status
Central Library N7574 .O44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Fernande Olivier was the first real love in the life of Picasso, and the years she spent with the great artist, 1904 to 1912, coincide with some of his most revolutionary work. "Loving Picasso" brings Oliver's memoirs to life with archival photos, reproductions of her own artwork, and a selection of superb portraits of her by Picasso himself. 82 illustrations, 10 in full color.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Olivier, the languorous, sloe-eyed beauty Picasso painted so obsessively during the most explosive period in his career, was, she writes, "an unwanted child, born to a young girl and a married man." Books were her refuge from the abuse she suffered at the hands of the relatives who begrudgingly raised her, and at age 15, she began keeping a journal, which she maintained throughout her brief but spectacularly disastrous marriage, her bold escape to Paris, and her intense seven-year involvement with Picasso as his muse and lover. Olivier's witty, precise yet fluent, touchingly frank account, published in English for the first time, arouses as much anger on her behalf as admiration for her resiliency and undernourished talents. Canny and articulate, Olivier ponders the collision of temperament and circumstance that induced her to become a much sought-after artist's model, drifting into brutally pragmatic liaisons. Her scintillating journal ends in 1907, but excerpts from her memoirs and letters take up the thread, followed by a reflective epilogue by esteemed Picasso biographer John Richardson. Olivier's lively, uninhibited chronicle greatly augments our understanding of a revolutionary era in art history and brings to life the woman behind the icon. Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Model and sometime diction teacher Olivier (1881-1966) lived with Picasso for nine years. Their passionate and contentious relationship, begun during his Blue and Rose periods, deteriorated and finally imploded as cubism built up steam. In the late 1920s, after fending for herself for nearly 20 years, the free-spirited and straight-talking Olivier (ne Amlie Lang) wrote an unsparing, crackling memoir of their high bohemian lives together, serializing it in Le Soir in 1930 and provoking Picasso's fury. It is published here for the first time in English, interspersed among Olivier's copious journal entries, and further supplemented with letters, and with annotations, notes and 82 illustrations (10 in color) selected by Marilyn McCully (Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay). Beginning with journal entries chronicling her whim-based "downfall" and marriage to an abuser at 18, her life as a model in and around the Ecole des Beaux Arts and further venturings, Olivier finally meets (on page 137) "the Spanish painter who lives in our building" ("I don't find him particularly attractive"), who turns out to be Picasso and they immediately take up with each other. Olivier's prosaic proto-postfeminism yields a page-turning perspective on a woman who vigilantly maintained her own identity, even as it was formed in relation to men, including friends from Apollinaire to Max Jacob, and by other famous friends like Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. In an epilogue, distinguished Picasso biographer John Richardson convincingly speculates that this memoir, published complete in French in 1933 but entrusted to Stein for American publication earlier, may have inspired The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. With its charming flaws (some, like reflexive anti-Semitism, less so) and guileless presentation, it's easy to see why. (May) Forecast: Attractively produced and carefully edited, this book will be a serious beach read for the art set and beyond, and its plethora of intrigue will draw in those who flip through it on a display table. Expect sales on the order of The Diary of Frieda Kahlo. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This book is based on the diaries of Fernande Olivier, the first significant woman, other than his mother and sister, in Picasso's life. The diaries were originally published in France in the 1930s and 1950s, but Picasso took extraordinary measures to keep them from wide exposure. Olivier's romance with Picasso (1904-12) began at a time when he was producing his most revolutionary paintings and ran through most of his Cubist period. Many of the Cubist female figures are drawn from Olivier. In this sensational work, she describes in detail her early life as an illegitimate child taken in by a cruel aunt, her abduction and rape by a man she was forced to marry, and her escape from him into the Parisian art world as an artist's model. Included also are her letters to Gertrude Stein, whom she saw as a mentor. The book is illustrated throughout with mostly black-and-white photographs. Olivier's insightful and detailed commentary on the mores and people of Paris and the Bateau Lavoir the studio where she lived with Picasso offer an astute insider's perspective and are invaluable to art scholarship and to anyone seeking to understand this period in modern art. Marilyn McCully, editor of the multivolume Life of Picasso, and its acclaimed author, John Richardson, provide context in a foreword and epilog. This extraordinary work, here translated into English for the first time, is not to be missed. For all Picasso and 20th-century art book collections. Ellen Bates, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Foreword The Mirror of the Cubist Acropolis Marilyn McCully Pablo Picasso decided at a very young age that he wanted to become an artist, and for the rest of his life he pursued this solitary aim to the exclusion of practically everything else. His family in Spain did all they could to support and encourage him, although they had hoped he would eventually establish a career as a distinguished academician either in Barcelona or Madrid. He realized early on, however, that his future lay in Paris, and, in 1904 at the age of twenty-two, he settled in Montmartre in the ramshackle building known as the Bateau Lavoir. Apart from the mutual support that existed among a close circle of friends, including a number of fellow Spaniards and the French poet Max Jacob, Picasso worked alone. Fernande Olivier, the beautiful artist's model whom he first met outside the Bateau Lavoir several months after he had moved in, was the first woman (apart from his mother and sisters) to play a significant role in his life. For an artist whose professional activity was so closely tied to his private and inner world, Picasso's relationship with la belle Fernande , as she was known among their friends, is reflected over and over again in the many works of art that her presence inspired.     Thanks to Fernande Olivier's memoirs we are able to know, in wonderfully entertaining and informative detail, about Picasso's life at the period when his work showed its most dramatic development. Fernande kept a journal for much of the time that she spent with Picasso and first published some of her reminiscences in the 1930s. Her lively observations of the comings and goings of artists and writers, patrons and dealers, bohemians, tricksters and clowns, who all played their part in the years before the First World War, are invaluable. The interrelationships among them and the events that affected them all, including suicides and love affairs, drug-taking and banquets, exhibitions and poetry readings, are described in a direct and engaging way. Max Jacob later claimed that Fernande's first book, Picasso et ses amis (1933), was "the best mirror of the cubist Acropolis"; and in spite of occasional errors of chronology and some notable omissions in her memoirs--very little is said, for instance, about the role of Georges Braque, or about major compositions such as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)--no study of the development of Picasso's art, especially the advent of cubism, can ignore what Fernande Olivier had to say.     While she and Picasso were together, Fernande spent practically all of her time with the artist, first in the cramped quarters of the Bateau Lavoir studio and later in a larger, more bourgeois, apartment on the Boulevard de Clichy. During the summers (beginning in 1906), they usually left the city together, either for Spain or the French countryside. No matter where they were, it was up to Fernande to keep Picasso company and be his lover, to make him a home and entertain their friends and, importantly, to protect his privacy when he worked long into the night. Her memoirs describe the ardor of the young artist's attentions from the moment they met, how he built a shrine to her in his studio, and his joy when she decided to move in with him in 1905. Fernande's presence, which the artist fiercely guarded, even to the extent of locking her up when he went out, was clearly essential to him during these years of artistic and personal struggle. At the same time, and from her point of view, the memoirs also reveal the difficulty she experienced living with a creative genius, whose dark moods and jealousy were often directed against her and eventually contributed to the break-up of the relationship in 1912.     Picasso et ses amis first appeared in book form in French in 1933, following the earlier publication of excerpts from Fernande's memoirs in the Paris journals Le Soir (1930) and Mercure de France (1931). In his Epilogue John Richardson recounts in more detail the difficulties that Fernande experienced trying to find a publisher for the book, her shabby treatment by Gertrude Stein, who had promised to help her in America, and also how Picasso tried, unsuccessfully, to stop publication of the memoir in France. In 1934 another short selection was also published in English translation in The Studio , but it was not until 1964 that the book Picasso et ses amis was translated into English, when it came out as Picasso and His Friends .     A second volume of memoirs by Fernande, Souvenirs intimes --probably written in the 1950s, although it may have been begun twenty years earlier--was published in French posthumously in 1988, and this includes the story of her life before she met Picasso as well as that of the years they spent together. Souvenirs intimes was based upon the journal Fernande had begun as a child, and continued through her first years with Picasso, while the later sections cover much of the period described in Fernande's earlier book. Sometimes the accounts concur, sometimes the later version reveals incidents or names that were disguised in Picasso et ses amis , and sometimes details given in the earlier book are omitted. The style of the two books differs markedly. The directness of Picasso et ses amis is conveyed by short sentences and abbreviated paragraphs, while Souvenirs intimes includes lengthier accounts, reflecting the private nature of the author's journal. Fernande told Paul Léautaud, who wrote the preface to the first edition of Picasso et ses amis , that the final version of the text, in fact, bore very little resemblance to her original words. She herself had edited the text, made corrections and reworked all the chapters. In order to present her complete story in a single volume, the translators here have incorporated material from the earlier book (in a new translation), though the more intimate narrative style of the Souvenirs intimes has been preferred wherever a choice was possible. In addition, the immediacy of Fernande's authentic voice is demonstrated in the selection of her letters, which are also included in this volume. All but one of these were written to Gertrude Stein or Alice Toklas. They include descriptions of life in the Spanish village of Horta de Ebro (1909) that, according to Fernande, were originally written with eventual publication in America in mind.     After Fernande's second memoir appeared, its authenticity was called into question by some critics and writers who had not seen the actual pages of script in Fernande's handwriting (some of which are reproduced here; see p. 20) and were baffled that such a document had remained secret during her lifetime. John Richardson explains in his Epilogue why this happened. While it is true that the youthful journal upon which Fernande based so many early memories has been lost (perhaps when her apartment was rifled after her death), the later text of the Souvenirs intimes includes a great deal of material that subsequent research has confirmed. In Méru, where Fernande spent time as a girl, for instance, the name of her uncle Labrosse appears in the records of local domino producers (see p. 30). It has also been possible to track down many of the paintings and sculptures for which Fernande modeled before she met Picasso and which she describes in some detail; several are reproduced here. Photographs in the Archives Picasso, which have come to light only in recent years, turn out to be the very ones Fernande mentioned in Horta de Ebro in 1909, including a picture of the local guardias one of whom she described as a double of Apollinaire (reproduced here for the first time; see p. 241).     One mystery surrounding Fernande herself is her real name. Amélie Lang is the name that appears on her birth certificate, on an act of recognition by her mother, Clara Lang, and on her wedding license. The name of Fernande's father is unknown, although it may have been Bellevallé, a surname that Fernande adopted briefly in 1907 (she also spelled the name Belvallé or Belvalet). Several writers have suggested that Bellevallé was the name of Fernande's uncle, with whom she lived as a child. However, the directory entries for manufacturers of feather and flower ornaments on Rue Réaumur at the time Fernande lived there with her aunt and uncle show no Bellevallés; her uncle was probably the fleuriste Petot at no. 55 Rue Réaumur. It has also been suggested that the name Bellevallé was a gallicization of a name like Schoental or Schoenfeld, indicating that Fernande was Jewish. In her Souvenirs , Fernande describes her temperament as "Middle Eastern," a lineage that she says she inherited from her maternal grandmother. Perhaps this grandmother was called Bellevallé. In all probability, Fernande was a half or quarter-Jewish. Growing up in the assimilated society of Paris, she appears to have had little consciousness of this heredity. Later, as Richardson notes in the Epilogue, her part-Jewish ancestry must have been a worry to Fernande during the Second World War.     When Amélie Lang changed her name to Fernande Olivier is uncertain, although it seems most likely that she did so at the time she left her husband, Paul-Emile Percheron, in 1900, several years before she met Picasso. Judging by the frequency with which Parisian writers and actors, in particular, used pseudonyms during this period, Fernande was clearly following an accepted practice. In the Bateau Lavoir circle she made no secret of her real name. André Salmon in his memoirs refers to her both as Fernande Olivier (or la belle Fernande ) and as "la jeune Amélie."     Fernande changed some of the names of real people, notably that of "Laurent Debienne," who was actually called Gaston de Labaume. Since his wife was still alive at the time Fernande was writing her Souvenirs intimes , she was probably using discretion in this case. Brief biographies of individuals who can be identified from the text, many of whom used pseudonyms or whose names were disguised by Fernande, are given at the end of the text. In only a few cases, has it been impossible to trace people that Fernande mentioned.     Fernande's record of her life before she met Picasso provides a startlingly frank and close look at the experiences of a young woman growing up in Paris in the late nineteenth century. She was mistreated and abused as a child, raised without love by an aunt who had reluctantly taken her in--in all probability primarily for the money that the child's mother or father paid her. Because of the amateurish nature of Fernande's girlhood journal, some of the early material concerning her experiences at school, descriptions of the food and furniture in her aunt's home, and her childish flirtations, for example, have been abbreviated here. (Excerpts are indicated by [...] in the text.) Fernande has been accused of adopting the romanticizing tone of cheap fiction in Souvenirs intimes , in order to justify her troubled past, especially her sexual history. However, there is nothing in the text to suggest that anything other than what Fernande describes actually happened. Indeed, her early story is probably not that much different from many young, deprived women struggling to make it alone in Paris in the Belle Epoque and later.     What is remarkable in Fernande's case is not only that she overcame the appalling difficulties she had experienced as a girl but that she recorded the events in her life in such a vivid way. When she was eighteen Fernande was forced by her aunt into marriage to a man who raped and beat her, and in order to escape him she fled to Paris, where she became an artist's model. Her descriptions of the different studios in which she worked and the demands of the different painters and sculptors whom she encountered is fascinating. We get a rare glimpse of what actually happened during the Prix de Rome competitions, how models and artists alike were cooped up in small, hot studios for hours on end, told from the point of view of the model. Fernande also gives us a good idea of the procedures and attitudes of academic artists, including the painter Fernand Cormon, who set up his models in theatrical settings for large-scale compositions, and the sculptor François Sicard. When in 1905 Fernande moved in with Picasso, he demanded that she give up modeling. Sicard, who had nearly completed work on a monument for Algeria for which she had been posing, tried without success to persuade Picasso to allow her to finish the job. Nonetheless, we recognize Fernande at an instant in the huge plaster (see p. 116) preserved in the Musée des Beaux-Arts at Tours, Sicard's hometown.     Fernande also served as a model for some of the aspiring artists in the Bateau Lavoir. She recounts sitting for Laurent Debienne (Gaston de Labaume), the sculptor with whom she had lived since she left her husband, mentioning in particular a bust that he did of her (presumably now lost). In 1904 she left Debienne and moved into a neighboring studio at the Bateau Lavoir, occupied by her friend Benedetta Coletti, who was also an artist's model and the wife of the Catalan artist Ricard Canals. They posed together for Canals as Spanish señoritas at a bullfight (p. 147), a subject that had been commissioned by a Catalan patron, Ivo Bosch, who also lived in Paris. At Canals' studio, Fernande met another Catalan artist, Joaquim Sunyer, who became her lover and for whom she and Benedetta again modeled together (p. 131).     Fernande gave up modeling as a profession when she moved in with Picasso, although on a couple of occasions she posed for their artist friends, including Kees Van Dongen (see pp. 14, 134), who moved into the Bateau Lavoir with his wife and daughter in December 1905, and the sculptor Manolo (see p. 272). But she did, at least in the early years, frequently sit for Picasso. The engraving that he did of her in 1905 is, undoubtedly, the portrait to which she refers in Souvenirs intimes (p. 160). In general, however, the relationship between the paintings and drawings that Fernande inspired and the traditional notion of portraiture is not so straightforward. More often than not, Picasso's depictions of women during the years he and Fernande lived together (especially from 1906 to 1909), reflect her physical presence in the studio. In some cases he did paint or draw her embroidering, reading books or relaxing. But in the vast majority of his figure compositions, Picasso had absorbed her body and features so completely into his visual vocabulary that most of the women became, as it were, generic Fernandes. A case in point is the great Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907. Although Flora Groult reported that Fernande claimed to have posed for this composition, neither can the quotation Groult cites be traced, nor is there any evidence at all that Fernande did. In fact, some of Picasso's Demoiselles sketchbooks include drawings done from life of a very different body type, suggesting that he may have used other models while he was working on the painting, precisely at a time when his relationship with Fernande was becoming strained. Nonetheless, the standing figures in the Demoiselles still relate in physiognomy to paintings and drawings of Fernande done in the previous year. But it is important to remember that Picasso was also responding to other sources, including Iberian and tribal art, photographs of African women, and to compositions by other painters, such as El Greco and Cézanne. The artistic process has thus transformed Fernande's image and body into a type that derives not from observation (of her), but from the artist's imagination. This process of transformation in his work would continue throughout Picasso's life, not only with the images inspired by Fernande's successors but by the people who were close to the artist at different moments during his long career.     Fernande's godson, Gilbert Krill, has given this new edition of Fernande's memoirs his fullest support and has generously provided much information about Fernande's life before and after Picasso. Gilbert and his wife Carmen were originally responsible for assembling Souvenirs intimes , which they based upon the manuscript that they retrieved from what was left in Fernande's apartment at the time of her death, after her belongings had been ransacked. Since then they have tirelessly set out to preserve her memory and to acquire other documents relating to her life. As a painter himself, Gilbert Krill has over the last twenty years dedicated his energies to depicting many of the events that are described in the memoirs in compositions that reflect the atmosphere of the Bohemian world that his godmother evoked in her books. His works have been shown in Montmartre and elsewhere and have contributed to a continuing curiosity about the life that Picasso shared with his first great love, Fernande Olivier.     John Richardson's Epilogue traces the difficult course that Fernande's life followed after Picasso, including her love affairs with the Italian painter Ubaldo Oppi and the actor and writer Roger Karl. Although Karl later claimed that she was the best proofreader he had ever encountered, in order to live she had to work at a number of jobs over the years. As it turned out, it was her writing that eventually sustained her. Fernande re-established contact with Picasso after the Second World War and was able to persuade him to contribute to her support in the last decade of her life. While in her memoirs she remembered the years she shared with Picasso with bittersweet pain and regretted that she had ever left him, his tribute to her resides in the paintings and drawings of la belle Fernande that remain as a testament of their love and life together. Copyright © 2001 Gilbert Krill.

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