LOVING PICASSO: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier
Release date: 05/01/2001
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 (née Amélie 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.