Quick Thoughts from ‘Pairing Picasso’

“I don’t want to spoil the first freshness of my work. If it were possible, I would leave it as it is, while I began over and carried it to a more advanced state on another canvas. Then I would do the same thing with that one. There would never be a ‘finished’ canvas, but just the different ‘states’ of a single painting, which normally disappear in the course of work.”Pablo Picasso

I came across this quote during a recent visit to the exhibition ‘Pairing Picasso’ at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. One small room in a massive temple dedicated to the arts, it’s many massive corridors filled with more than enough beautiful work to keep you occupied for at least a full day or two. One small room with 11 works by Picasso, four pairs and a trio, an intimate gallery that manages to give a sense of Picasso’s extensive career as a womanizer, and as an artist, at which he was nearly as prolific.

But there was one work that really drew my eye.

Picasso - Marie Therese Walter

This charcoal nude displays Marie Thèrese Walter asleep. He transforms her body into abstract lines and his expressive energy left on the canvas leaves a lasting memory of man infatuated and full of energy. Capturing her essence in what feels more like a sketch than a finished work of art.
Miss Walter would appear in many others of his paintings. And he would evolve his style accordingly.


One of his more famous muses, she and Picasso started a relationship while she was still seventeen, and he was married to Olga Khokhlova. Picasso did never divorce his wife, even after Picasso bought Walter a house across the street, and she became his muse and model for years. Her blonde hair and bright personality leading to many of his more colorful works. Only after Therese got pregnant with Picasso’s child, and Olga left for the South of France in 1935 could Picasso and Walter finally be together.

This would not last long however. In 1935 Picasso met the photographer Dora Maar. In many ways the opposite of Marie-Thèrese Walter, Dora Maar was a woman who had been described as ‘the woman in tears’, her intellect and emotional state a sharp contrast with Walter’s gentle and passive personality. Picasso loved to tell an anecdote where the two women met for the first time at his studio, and demanding he choose between them. Instead he ensured the women wrestle each other on the studio floor. Picasso would describe this as “one of his choicest memories.”  

Picasso - Femme Assise (Dora)

Picasso - Fernande Oliver Full

But one thing stood out to me throughout all these works. Something everyone from a beginner to a skilled professional can take away from it. Being up close and personal with this work, it becomes abundantly clear that Picasso loved the process. Loving the beauty of a sketch, but also taking risks and allowing himself to move outside of his comfort zone. Sometimes, like in the portrait of Fernande Oliver, combining the beautiful oil painting of her face and personality, while leaving a basic sketch for her body. He took the risk, and it’s become such an interesting piece of work. 

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