At Montmartre Museum, in Paris, Fernande Olivier, Picasso model and chronicler of cubism

An exhibition is interested in the relations between the painter and that which was his lover and his muse between 1904 and 1912.

by Philippe Dagen

Fernande Olivier (1881-1966) is most often known only for having been the partner and model of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), from their meeting in August 1904 to their break in May 1912. His book Picasso And his friends (1933) is read for what he reports from a period all the more remarkable since it is that of the Demoiselles of Avignon (1907) and Cubism. His intimate memories, published posthumously in 1988 at Calmann-Lévy, caught the attention less, although they were no less interesting. The exhibition, which occupies two floors of the Montmartre museum, in Paris, a short distance from the Lavoir boat where the couple lived until September 1909 and their Boulevard de Clichy move, is also based on the two volumes. The chronicle of cubism and the intimate autobiography of Fernande are intertwined.

When she meets Picasso, she chooses to keep her past. His first name and name are indeed his invention. She was born Amélie Lang, of a “not denounced” father because married to a woman other than her mother. The maternal environment is that of the Parisian petty bourgeoisie, the trade of artificial flowers of his aunt. In 1898, she was raped by a man named Paul Percheron, brother-in-law of an employee of the store. March 11, 1899 was born a son, André Robert. She is forcibly married to the father, although a minor. Paul Percheron subjected her to rapes and violence and, the following year, in 1900, she fled from the marital home.

M me Amélie Percheron becomes the Fernande Olivier model. She lives a time with the sculptor Laurent Debienne, in Montparnasse, then, in 1901, at the Lavoir boat. She poses for academic glories such as Fernand Cormon or Jean-Jacques Henner, for worldly artists such as Giovanni Boldini, who tries to rape her and that she pushes him off, and for younger, including Catalan friends from Picasso, Joaquim Sunyer and Ricard Canals.

This second part of his life is illustrated in the exhibition by variations in the Spanish patterns of these two painters and a few others, including a Lodge in La Tauromachie (1904), from Canals, where Fernande is disguised as señora in mantilla and fan. It is also by documents that recall how much model is tiring and sometimes dangerous. Also, Picasso refuses that she continues to ask as soon as he becomes her partner, with the exception of a few sessions in the neighbor’s workshop, Kees Van Dongen.

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/Media reports cited above.