line drawing by Charlotte Rossmann
Picasso met Marie-Therese Walter when she was 16 and he was 45. Immediately, they fell in love and for many years she remained the love of his life and the subject of many paintings. Even though, Picasso seemed to be incapable of being faithful to one woman, for a long period of time his art was infused with the spirit of this lively young woman with the luxurious, long blond hair, crystal blue eyes and voluptuous body.
At the time Picasso met her, he was living the life of a staid middle class husband and father. His art lacked the vibrancy and excitement of the early years. Given his talent, fame and charisma he easily found what he was looking for: a young girl willing to toss away the promise of a predictable life, respectability and marriage for the life of artist's mistress.
Marie-Therese became Picasso's principal muse for the next 14 years. During this time he moved in and out of relationships with other women but still Marie-Therese was his major love interest. In Picasso's greatest masterpiece, Guernica, Marie-Therese's image can be seen at least 3 times. Over and over Picasso painted her as she seemed to haunt him in art and in life.
They broke up long before his death in 1973 but even so the bond was strong enough that in the end, she could not bear to face living without Picasso in the world. Marie-Therese killed herself 50 years after they first met in 1977.
This love affair is the subject of a major exhibit, "Picasso and Marie-Therese: L-Amour Fou," at the Gagosian Gallery in New York this year. This exhibit includes some of the masterpieces that Picasso painted that were inspired by the lovely blond girl.