A grand Picasso retrospective planned to open at the Georges Petit Gallery on June 15, 1932, gave him an opportunity to be surrounded by 236 canvases that had been gathered in Paris from around the globe. In September of the same year, another grand retrospective opened at the Zurich Kunsthaus. One of the 28,000 visitors to see the show was Carl Jung, and the result of his confrontation with an overview of Picasso's oeuvre was a devastating piece that appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on November 13, 1932. Struck by the similarity between Picasso's work and the drawings of his schizophrenic patients, Jung declared Picasso a schizophrenic, expressing in his work a recurrent, characteristic motif "of the descent into hell, into the unconscious, and the farewell to the world above." Comparing the images produced by Picasso to those produced by his patients, he wrote,
Considered from a strictly formal point of view, what predominates in them is the character of mental lacerations, which translate themselves into broken lines, that is, a type of psychological fissures which run through the image. … It is the ugly, the sick, the grotesque, the incomprehensible, the banal that are sought out—not for the purpose of expressing anything, but only in order to obscure; an obscurity, however, which has nothing to conceal, but spreads like a cold fog over desolate moors; the whole thing quite pointless, like a spectacle that can do withhout a spectator.
Whatever the validity of Jung's insights, it was undeniable that as Picasso entered the sixth decade of his life he was further away than ever from his youthful dream of creating a universal art—not just of achieving mastery in any style and any medium he chose but of transcending all styles to create something absolute and ultimate. He had the courage to die to many different artistic expressions and be born to new ones, but he lacked the courage to let go of the trapeze of his monumental egocentricity and his dazzling personality and trust that there was something beyond himself to catch him. No number of magical canvases and sexual acrobatics could shield him, except momentarily, from his all-pervading sense of doom.
In the fall of 1934 Picasso poured out his confusion and torment in the four powerfully moving etchings of The Blind Minotaur. The minotaur, a symbol for himself, is being tenderly guided by a beautiful girl clutching a dove. There is an air of hopeless tragedy about the blinded beast, so strong but so vulnerable, as he struggles to find his way along the seashore. The girl looks like Marie-Thérèse, but there is something transcendent about her, beyond any physical personality, more like Goethe's "eternal feminine which leads us upward."
For years now he had turned away from his wife's increasingly unstable emotions. As he wrote in a poem, in 1935, the "eye of the bull"—another code name for himself—has a "thousand reasons to keep silent and turn a deaf ear to the flea who pisses the rain from so much coffee." It was a clear reference to Olga. One of Picasso's most vivid domestic images, he once said, was of her constantly and neurotically drinking coffee, something he was particularly aware of because his own sensitive stomach had long ago driven him to herb teas. But very early in 1935 it ceased to be possible for him to maintain his wooden pose, hoping that Olga would stop screaming, Marie-Therese would stop giggling, and, except when performing a specific function for him, both would disappear.
Now Marie-Thérèse found herself pregnant and Picasso found himself confused. Events ruled out inertia and frustrated his desire that nothing should disturb the status quo, fraught though it was with juggling and unpleasantness. He was excited about the coming baby and the possibility that it would bridge the growing chasm between himself and Marie-Thérèse—so much so that at one point during her pregnancy he knelt in front of her and cried tears of gratitude.
At the same time, although he wanted to rid himself of Olga's physical presence, he was paralyzed by the thought of divorce. Any final parting had the ring of death about it, and he was prepared to put up with a great deal to avoid major endings in his life. On top of his own innate terror he had the expert advice of Maître Henri-Robert, one of France's leading lawyers, who had reminded him that divorce would mean parting with half of everything he owned, including his work. So the French community property law and an agreement he had signed when he married Olga kept him from doing the rational thing and pressing for a divorce. As for Olga, she never wanted a divorce in the first place. But none of this made the separation negotiations any less bitter, unpleasant, or humiliating, especially when Olga's overeager lawyers had official seals put on the door of Picasso's sacred studio in the rue La Boetie.
Even so, it was Olga's spirit that broke first. By now she could not avoid the realization that her marriage was over, nor could she any longer ignore her husband's increasingly obvious hatred of her or the presence of her rival in his work. In July of 1935 she had a final hysterical outburst under the conjugal roof and stormed out, taking the puzzled Paulo with her. She did not go far, only around the corner, to the Hôtel California, in the rue de Berri, and in a sense she would never go far from her husband's life, growing progressively more demented over her obvious inability, no matter what she did, to provoke a reaction.
This was the first summer Picasso had spent in Paris alone in the rue La Boétie. Marie-Thérèse, more than six months pregnant, was staying with her mother outside Paris, at Maisons-Alfort, waiting for the divorce that Picasso had led her to believe was imminent. He had promised her and had assured her mother that they could be married before the baby was born—or at least soon after.
On September 5 Marie-Thérèse gave birth to a girl. The femme-enfant was now a mother, the salacious sex object a mother-figure. The baby was given the name of her father's dead sister, Mariá de la Concepción, but on her birth certificate the identity of the father was declared unknown.
At almost exactly the same time that his daughter was born, Picasso, now fifty-three, met the woman who was to replace her mother. At the Deux-Magots, the new favorite meeting place of André Breton and his Surrealist band, opposite the Romanesque church at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Picasso was introduced to Dora Maar. The name her parents had given her was Henrietta Theodora Markovitch, and she had been born in Tours "in the same year as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," as she would later put it. Her mother was French and her father a Yugoslav architect. It was the poet Paul Eluard who introduced her to Picasso, and Paul Eluard, as much as Dora, became inseparable from the new epoch that was beginning in Picasso's life.
As Picasso soon discovered, Dora was a painter and a photographer, an intellectual muse of the Surrealist movement, a close friend of Breton's, a friend and sometime mistress of Georges Bataille. She had changed her name from Markovitch to Maar, had lived for a long time in Buenos Aires, spoke fluent, beautiful Spanish, and exuded the restlessness, bewilderment, and anxiety of the modern intellectual.
She was as different from Marie-Thérèse as Eva had been from Fernande. Marie-Therese's life apart from Picasso was taken up by sport, Dora's by her intellectual passions. Marie-Thérèse's response to Picasso's portraits was that they "didn't look like her," to his paintings that they "didn't bowl her over," and to painting in general that it "didn't interest her." Dora, in contrast, could discuss with authority Corot's photographic experiments and how they applied to Picasso's work, as well as whatever technical problems or philosophical questions were on his mind; she could share his friends and his preoccupations. Both the wife and the concubine would be succeeded by the official mistress whose tormented intellect was in perfect harmony with the tragic years ahead.
On July 18, 1936, the news reached Paris that civil war had broken out between the Republican government and the insurgent Nationalists, led by Franco. The murder of the poet García Lorca soon after, at the age of thirty-eight, sent shock waves through the art world. "They are killing men here as if they are cutting down trees," Saint-Exupéry wrote. There was no question that Picasso's allegiance belonged immediately and instinctively to the Republicans seeking to put down the military uprising. But it was Eluard who, in their endless conversations, supplied him with the vocabulary of political indignation that he used in declaring himself for the Republic.
For the first time in his life this grand solitary joined the stream of history. From now on his isolation would be laced with a sense of solidarity and belonging. He even accepted, with alacrity, the offer of the Spanish government to become the honorary director of the Prado. It was the first and the last official position he would ever hold, and it was not so much honorary as symbolic. By then the Nationalist troops were only twenty miles from Madrid, and in August, as Franco's planes began bombing the city, the Prado treasures had to be rushed to the relative safety of Valencia.
Picasso settled Marie-Thérèse and María in a house ten miles from Versailles, at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre. With its barn converted into a studio and its relative proximity to Paris, it provided the perfect arrangement for this stage in his life. Having tucked Marie-Thérèse away, he threw himself into his relationship with Dora. Secure in her intellectual ascendancy over the uncultured Marie-Thérèse, Dora was also taking steps to solidify her position in Picasso's daily life by looking for a large studio away from the rue La Boétie, which they both detested. She hoped that he would work in the new studio without having to retreat as often to the country and that the two of them could work together on the photographic prints that fascinated Picasso or on their respective paintings. The first two paintings she gave him were heads, severe and imbued with a sacred, mystical quality. One of her proudest possessions was a painting they co-produced, which they jointly signed "Picamaar."
15 October XXXVI My love: I have to stay with Paul—I cannot come to have dinner and afterwards I am going to see the 'Catalans' who are here. Tomorrow I could come to have lunch soonest possible to see you, which is the most pleasant thing to do in this dog's life which I am leading. I love you every moment a little more.
At the center of his "dog's life" was Dora. The letter was addressed to Marie-Thérèse. As she recalled toward the end of her life, "there were bizarre things going on . . . Nusch [Paul Eluard's second wife], Dora." She might also have noticed that in his recent work she was growing flabbier and uglier, while the dark-haired woman would never look as beautiful or as serene as she looked at the beginning of 1937. On March 2 Dora was even portrayed asleep. Having usurped Marie-Thérèse's primary place in Picasso's life, she had now also usurped her abandoned rest.
"It must be painful," Picasso had said, "for a girl to see in a painting that she is on the way out." His love letters to Marie-Thérèse grew proportionately more passionate as his relationship with Dora intensified. And she believed them. Not because she was stupid, not even because she was unaware of the existence of "the other woman," which was already too public a part of Picasso's life to remain a secret, but because he had invented the reality in which Marie-Thérèse lived. Together they had burned the bridges to any other reality, and now there was nowhere else for her to go. At the same time, he had scored a major victory over Dora—her grudging and pained acceptance of the fact that, although she was the official mistress, she was not, and perhaps would never be, the only one.
Meanwhile, the insurgent generals in Spain were busy creating, as the Nationalist general Emilio Mola put it, "an impression of mastery" over the country. In order to achieve this, according to Mola, it was "necessary to spread an atmosphere of terror." And since the Republicans continued to control Madrid and most of the north and the east, the atrocities calculated to produce an atmosphere of terror became increasingly vicious and widespread. At the beginning of 1937 Picasso wrote a poem full of violent imagery, designed to ridicule Franco, who was presented as a loathsome, barely human, hairy slug. "Dream and Lie of Franco" was written in Spanish, in his automatic style, which eschewed any rules of syntax or grammar. As he had said to Jaume Sabartés, his longtime friend and secretary, "I would prefer to invent a grammar of my own than to bind myself to rules which do not belong to me." The text was illustrated by eighteen etchings of matching violence, fury, and horror. Franco, the beast attacking Spain, was another emissary of Picasso's arch-enemy, fate.
The landscape of his private life was changing. By late March he had moved into the new studio that Dora had found him, at 7 rue des Grands-Augustins, and she had moved around the corner, to 6 rue de Savoie. It took a lot of money to keep Picasso in bohemia. This particular bohemian setting was a seventeenth-century building redolent of historical associations: it had been the old Hôtel des Ducs de Savoie, it had been used by Jean-Louis Barrault as a rehearsal hall, and it was the setting for Balzac's Chef d'Oeuvre Inconnu and its hero's desperate quest to capture the absolute in painting.
And now, thanks to Dora, Picasso had found in "Barrault's loft" a space vast enough for his own most celebrated work. He had been commissioned by the Spanish government to produce a canvas for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World's Fair. As usual, hating the sense of obligation engendered by commissions, he procrastinated, worked on other things, refused to fall into step with his commitment. It took the bombing of the historic Basque town of Guernica, on April 26, 1937, to mobilize his creative frenzy, and then the huge canvas, twenty-five feet by eleven feet, was completed in only a month. In fact, many of the "preparatory studies" were done after the work was finished.
It was the first time that Picasso allowed himself an audience while he worked. Dora was a constant companion, photographing successive stages of the work; Eluard was a frequent witness, watching Picasso, brush in hand, sleeves rolled up, commenting on the progress of Guernica or obsessively talking about Goya. The forty-three German planes that had bombed Guernica had killed 1,600 of its 7,000 inhabitants and had destroyed 70 percent of the town, but the impact of this massacre went far beyond the actual damage inflicted. Guernica, with its ancient oak tree under which the first Basque Parliament had met, became a symbol for the triumph of hatred and irrational destruction, and helped convert a large section of Western public opinion to the Republican cause.
Guernica's power was enormous. It was a distillation of forty years of Picasso's art, with the woman, the bull, and the horse horrified companions in a black-and-white nightmare world. The novelist Claude Roy, a law student at the time, saw Guernica at the Paris World's Fair and described it as "a message from another planet." He wrote, "Its violence dumbfounded me, it petrified me with an anxiety I had never experienced before." The Surrealist poet Michel Leiris summed up the sense of despair engendered by Guernica: "In a rectangle of black and white such as that in which ancient tragedy appeared to us, Picasso sends us our announcement of our mourning: all that we love is going to die. …" Herbert Read went even further: all that we love, Picasso is saying, has died.
During the creation of this public monument to destruction Picasso's private games of destruction continued with no respite. One day Marie-Thérèse, who had been relegated to the margin of his life ever since he had embarked on Guernica with Dora as his tragic muse, arrived at the rue des Grands-Augustins while he was working. "I have a child by this man," she said to Dora, all her anger directed at her rival rather than her lover. "It's my place to be here with him. You can leave right now."
"I have as much reason as you have to be here," Dora replied coolly. "I haven't borne him a child, but I don't see what difference that makes."
Throughout this exchange Picasso kept on painting, as though he were an innocent and uninvolved bystander. Finally Marie-Thérèse asked him to arbitrate: "Make up your mind. Which one of us goes?"
Picasso, absolute master of the situation, recollected the incident with relish: "It was a hard decision to make. I liked them both, for different reasons: Marie-Thérèse because she was sweet and gentle and did whatever I wanted her to, and Dora because she was intelligent. I decided I had no interest in making a decision, I was satisfied with things as they were. I told them they'd have to fight it out themselves. So they began to wrestle. It's one of my choicest memories," he concluded, laughing. The art historian James Lord pinpointed an irony that had escaped Picasso: his mistresses engaged "in a fistfight in his studio, while he peacefully continued to work on the enormous canvas conceived to decry the horrors of human conflict."
Sometimes Picasso enjoyed having Marie-Thérèse follow along, in relative secrecy, when he and Dora went on vacation. But two women did not make a big enough harem for him, and so he often made sure through Paulo, his unwitting accomplice, that Olga also knew where he was going. She would turn up to stake her wifely claims, assault the woman who happened to be in her lawful place, and, most important, feed Picasso's insatiable hunger for power over others.
At the beginning of 1938 Picasso started spending more time at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre. The attraction, much more than Marie-Thérèse, was María. Now two years old, and looking just like her father, squat and square and with his piercing eyes, she became the new major figure in his work. He did not idealize her as he had Paulo; there is anxiety in her face and fear in the way she clings to her clumsy doll. At her christening her father, who was not officially her father, became officially her godfather. When her little friends asked what her name was, her father replied that it was Conchita, his diminutive for María de la Concepción. "Con-what?" they asked, aware, apparently, that con in French is "a fool," "an idiot." So her parents started calling her María, which from the little girl's lips soon began to sound like Maya. "Maya!" exclaimed her father. "It's perfect. It means the greatest illusion on earth." So Maya it was from then on—Maya Walter.
War had been in the air for some time, but on August 23, 1939, when Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin, it became inevitable. Many of Picasso's friends, including Eluard, had left to join their regiments, and those who remained could talk of nothing but the impending war. Picasso was scared, uncertain about his next move, and, to top it all, angry: "If it's to annoy me that they make war, they are carrying it too far, don't you think?" he complained to Sabartés.
As France mobilized for war, Picasso took care of the many details that went with his galloping success, seeing to numerous exhibitions of his work around the world—especially a grand retrospective of forty years of his art that was to open at the New York Museum of Modern Art in November. As part of the attendant publicity he spent a day posing at the rue des Grands-Augustins, at Lipp's, and at the café de Flore, while Brassaï photographed him for Life. Picasso had mastered the publicity game before the world knew that such a game existed. In fact, in many ways he helped to invent and define it. He had always recognized, and every step of his life had confirmed, a very basic correlation between the money fetched by a painting and the legend built around the painter. And money, for Picasso, was not so much a medium of exchange as the only unequivocal barometer of his success.
After the German blitzkrieg had swept through Belgium and moved on to France, the German army threatened Paris, and it became clear that to stay in the city was to court danger. Picasso decided to go to Royan. Once there, he received news from the gardener at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre that the house had been requisitioned by the Germans. He waited anxiously for more news, full of fear about the fate of his paintings and sculptures. As soon as the gardener called to say that the Germans had gone on army maneuvers, he took Marie-Thérèse and left for Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre. They found the big pieces of furniture moved to the courtyard to serve as a canteen for the soldiers, and sheets, silk dresses, shirts, and baby clothes used as cleaning cloths. But the aim of the first trip was to salvage the paintings and sculptures. After that, each time the Germans left for army maneuvers, they rushed back to steal more things from the thieves.
War was in his pictures—not this war, not any particular war, but the darkness and the anger and the hatred that cause wars. In June the German army marched into Royan and Picasso painted one of his most brutal and vengeful images of womanhood: Dora as the Nude Dressing Her Hair. The brutality was no less present in his life. He often beat Dora, and there were many times when he left her lying unconscious on the floor. The transformation of the princess into a toad and of sensuality into horror was complete. And in the dog-face portraits he painted of Dora, he completed the transformation of woman into servile animal. As the art historian Mary Gedo put it, Dora, like his Afghan hound Kazbek, "came whenever he whistled." More than two thirds of his work during 1939 and 1940 consisted of deformed women, their faces and bodies flayed with fury. His hatred of a specific woman seemed to have become a deep and universal hatred of all women.
France fell, and on June 22 an armistice was signed dividing the country into two zones—one, including Paris, occupied by the German army, and the other, Vichy, governed by the collaborationist Marshal Pétain. Late in 1940 Marie-Thérèse and Maya moved back to Paris. Since the Germans were occupying her house at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre, she took an apartment on boulevard Henri-IV. Picasso would visit her and Maya most Thursdays and Sundays, and she would live for those visits until in her mind they came to be her whole life. During the other five days she kept a room in the house locked and told Maya that her father worked there and she should never disturb him. Marie-Thérèse would visit him at the rue des Grands-Augustins only when invited. During one of these visits he showed her a closet where he kept stacks of gold ingots and bars of soap from Marseilles. "If something happens to me," he told her, "all this is yours." Marie-Thérèse, who since the Occupation had been using ersatz soap, which was all she could get, pleaded with him: "I would much rather have the soap right away." Ignoring her request, Picasso locked the door to the closet. And Marie-Thérèse had to be satisfied with promises and declarations. "You've saved my life," he told her again and again, and he insisted that she write to him every day, "because without your letters I am sick." He wrote her letters in return, full of flowers, pigeons, and ardent statements like "You are the best of women" and "I love only you."
In May of 1943, while Picasso was dining at the Catalan with Dora and her friend Marie-Laure de Noailles, both his passion for life and his hope for love were rekindled. Two young women were having dinner with the actor Alain Cuny, and Picasso couldn't take his eyes off them. One had dark hair, dark eyes, and a classical Greek face enhanced by the flowing, pleated dress she was wearing. The other, very slender with a tiny waist, had wide green eyes and a fresh, alert face set off by a green turban. One was Geneviève Aliquot, the other Françoise Gilot.
Madeleine Gilot had given birth to Françoise on November 26, 1921, nine months after Olga Picasso had given birth to Paulo. Emile Gilot, a successful businessman highly interested in educational theories, was determined to bring up his only child like a boy—a very well educated one. As a result, Françoise could read and write by the time she was four and was more familiar with the gods of Olympus and the formulas of algebra than with the children of her neighborhood in Neuilly. Until she was nine, a tutor came to the house to teach her under the stern supervision of her father.
When the war began, Françoise was studying law, planning, in accordance with her father's wishes, to become an international lawyer. But the war and the growing Resistance, which many of her friends had joined, made her rethink what was really important to her. "I told my father," she remembered, "that it didn't mean anything to me any longer to become a lawyer when the law, and especially international law, didn't even exist. … So, in 1941, I decided to use the time I was spending earning a master's degree at the school of law to pursue my studies of art." She had been drawing ever since she was a child, illustrating daydreams or stories she told herself, full of monkeys, devils, and ghosts. But then everyone in her family had a gift for drawing, so no one took her gift very seriously. Still, her mother agreed to pose for her, and so did her closest friend, Geneviève Aliquot. Geneviève, who was a pupil of Aristide Maillol's, was instrumental in Françoise's decision to give up law for painting.
Picasso watched Françoise closely that night at the Catalan and made quite sure that all his witty aphorisms and brilliant declarations were clearly overheard. It was as if they had dinner together before they ever met. When Cuny introduced them and Picasso discovered that Françoise and Geneviève were painters, he invited them to his studio to see some of his paintings.
After Geneviève left Paris, Françoise would come to the Rue des Grands-Augustins alone. One day, while Picasso was showing her his sculpture tools, he turned and kissed her on the mouth. She accepted this familiarity as matter-of-factly as she had accepted tubes of paint and drawing paper from him, which enraged Picasso. "That's disgusting," he told her. "At least you could have pushed me away. Otherwise I might get the idea I could do anything I wanted to."
Françoise told him that she was at his disposal, her tone making it clear that this was an assertion of control rather than an admission of surrender. "That's disgusting," he repeated. "How do you expect me to seduce anyone under conditions like that?"
It was their last meeting before Françoise left for Fontes, a village near Montpellier, where Geneviève's family lived. Her father was the head of the Resistance there, which brought Françoise closer to the daily dangers of the Nazi Occupation. From Fontes the two women cycled to Les Baux, where they stayed for two weeks. Françoise's time at Les Baux was her life's major turning point. "I remember every detail as though it was today," she said. "First of all the place itself is so special. Dante was there during his exile from Florence, and he was so affected by the setting he made it part of the Divine Comedy. And in nearby Arles, Van Gogh did all those extraordinary paintings. While I was there, I had the most incredibly mystical experience that challenged every aspect of myself and my life. It was not a momentary thing—there was an inner struggle that went on for days, during which I knew that I had to stop identifying with my ego and my intellect if I was to enter into that transcendent state. I felt on the edge of an abyss, and then on the other side I was sort of re-made, bit by bit, from nothingness into being."
When Françoise went to see Picasso again, she found him in a state of extreme sadness. She also found that she felt closer to him than ever before. "The impact of our meeting," she recalled, "would have been very different if we had met at a time of peace. The tragedy around us and the pounding of history made it extraordinary where otherwise it might have been something interesting but ordinary, without the metaphysical quality that it had. Also, in the perspective of war, the fact that Picasso was forty years older than myself didn't mean a thing. After all, I could have died at any moment. And in any case, Pablo was more like a man of forty than a man who by the time I saw him again in November had had his sixty-second birthday."
To Picasso, Françoise was a marvel, a marvelous accident. As this girl young enough to be his granddaughter expressed her precocious opinions and pulled the rug out from under his tricks of seduction and control, a grudging respect walled up in him. One day in February of 1944 he suggested that next time she should come in the afternoon and he would teach her engraving and not let anyone disturb them. She arrived for her engraving lesson looking like a vision out of Velázquez, in a black velvet dress, her face framed by its high collar of white lace, her dark red hair swept up. Once again he was the one thrown off balance. "Is that the kind of costume you put on to learn engraving?" he asked. She replied that she had dressed not for engraving but for what she had assumed he had on his mind: "I wanted to look beautiful for you."
There was both an innocence and a power in her directness that unnerved him. She kept dealing him cards he had never been dealt before. "You do everything you can to make things difficult for me," he said, throwing up his hands. "Couldn't you at least pretend to be taken in, the way women generally do? If you don't fall in with my subterfuges, how are we ever going to get together?" He complained, and at the same time he loved it. "You're right, really," he conceded. "It's better that way, with the eyes open. But you realize, don't you, that if you don't want anything but the truth—no subterfuges—you're asking to be spared nothing. Broad daylight is pretty harsh."
He had issued a warning, but, vibrant with all the courage of youth, she felt invincible. So far she was winning—the twenty-two-year-old virgin was outwitting the sixty-two-year-old roué who had explored to the full the dark outer limits of sexuality. The engraving lesson forgotten, he began showing her his Vollard etchings. A minotaur is watching over a woman asleep: "He's studying her," Picasso explained, "trying to read her thoughts, trying to decide whether she loves him because he's a monster. Women are odd enough for that, you know. It's hard to say whether he wants to wake her or kill her."
No matter what he said, he could not succeed in disturbing her equanimity. He was intrigued by the source of her strength; he sensed that it came from a higher place than experience, looks, or brains. "You are the only woman I've met," he told her, "who has her own window to the absolute." He was excited about the possibility of what he considered a new kind of relationship, where there was reciprocity—perhaps even love. "I guess I'll die without ever having loved," he had told her a few months earlier. And she had laughed and asked him not to make up his mind yet.
"What as it all about, anyway?" he asked her suddenly as they were looking through the Vollard prints. "Do you know?" There was hope in the challenge. Françoise said that she didn't know for sure but that yes, she had taken the first steps on the journey of finding out. It was his cue to take her arm and lead her to the bedroom. He undressed her, and then studied her. And then he marveled at how closely her body matched his image of her body.
Françoise lay in his arms filled with a peace so profound and a joy so complete that nothing else mattered and there was nothing left to achieve. She felt impervious to doubts, fears, and even to the pessimism that had seeped into Picasso's very being and which now took over. He did not trust life enough to give himself over to what he sensed would bring light into his darkness; and he did not trust himself enough not to destroy it. By asking to see her sparingly, he was seeking to protect what had begun to grow between them from the monster that, experience had taught him, he could not control.
Françoise left, feeling that the great painter she had admired impersonally had, in the course of the past hour, been transformed into a man she could not help but love.
In February of 1944, the same month that Picasso and Françoise set out haltingly on their journey together, Max Jacob was arrested at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire and sent to the detention camp at Drancy, a stop on the long journey to Auschwitz or Dachau. On his way he wrote to Cocteau: "Dear Jean, I'm writing this on a train out of the kindness of the gendarmes who surround us. We will very soon be in Drancy. This is all I have to say. Sacha, when they talked to him about my sister, said: 'If it was him, I could do something!' Well, it is me. I embrace you. Max." The restraint of his plea made his agony all the more poignant. From Drancy one last appeal reached his friends in Paris: "May Salmon, Picasso, Moricand do something for me."
His friends had already begun to mobilize all the support they could find. Cocteau drew up a moving letter about Jacob, about the reverence in which he wes held by the French youth, about his invention of a new language that dominated French literature, about his renunciation of the world. And in a discreet postscript he added: "Max Jacob has been a Catholic for twenty years." The appeal was personally delivered to von Rose, the counselor in charge of pardons and reprieves at the German embassy, who, miraculously, was a lover of poetry and an admirer of Jacob's work. Conspicuously absent from the petition's signatories was Picasso. His silence in behalf of one of his oldest and most intimate friends was thundering. When Pierre Colle, Jacob's literary executor, went to the rue des Grands-Augustins to ask him to use his considerable authority with the Germans to intervene in Jacob's behalf, he refused, crowning his indifference with a quip: "It is not worth doing anything at all. Max is a little devil. He doesn't need our help to escape from prison."
On March 6 von Rose announced that he had succeeded in obtaining a liberation order signed by the Gestapo, and a few of Jacob's friends left immediately for Drancy. There they were informed that Jacob was dead. He had died the day before of pneumonia, fatally weakened by the conditions in prison and the freezing cold in his damp, filthy cell. The "little devil" had flown out of his prison through death. Did the Germans know that Jacob was dead when they signed the liberation order? Or was this a genuine reprieve that arrived too late? And would Picasso's intervention have made a difference?
Whenever Picasso himself got into trouble during the Occupation, whether because he was eating in a black-market restaurant when it was raided or because he had his sculptures cast in bronze when doing so was illegal, or -- more serious—because he was caught smuggling currency out of the country, someone was able to hush things up for him. If André-Louis Dubois, in the Ministry of the Interior, was not able to help, he would address himself to Otto Abetz, the German ambassador. And if he, too, was powerless, Dubois would go as high as Arno Broker, Hitler's favorite sculptor, who would appeal directly to Himmler's assistant, the SS general Heinrich Müller. "If you lay a hand on Picasso," Breker warned him at the time of the currency incident, "the world's press will cause such an uproar you'll be left dizzy." He added that if Müller did not sign the documents to put an end to any action against Picasso, he would appeal directly to the Führer. Müller, who knew that on the Führer's orders statues from the squares of Paris had been melted down to provide bronze to cast the works of Arno Broker, knew better than to withhold his signature. In his memoirs Breker recorded what Hitler said: "In politics all the artists are innocents, like Parsifal."
The liberation of Paris, proclaimed on August 25, heralded a turning point in Picasso's life. He was no longer just world famous, no longer merely a legend. He became a symbol of the victory over oppression, of survival, and of the glory of old Europe. He was even asked to provide a drawing for the first page of an album of homage offered to General Charles de Gaulle by the poets and painters of the Resistance. He was a celebrity they could co-opt to add more glamour to their triumph. Having always had a strong preference for symbols over reality, he accepted. There were thousands of anonymous heroes in the Resistance, but Picasso, although certainly no hero, was a monument, as well known as the Eiffel Tower and almost as accessible. He posed for photographs with his favorite pigeon perched on his head or on his shoulder; he welcomed hundreds of American GIs who lined up to visit his studio; he said, "Thank you very much," in a charming Franco-Spanish accent, to offerings of chocolate, coffee, fruit, and tins of food; he answered patiently and graciously over and over again all questions about the length of time it took him to paint a picture, how many he did a year, how many he sold and for how much.
An early visitor to the rue des Grands-Augustins was Ernest Hemingway. Picasso was out, and the concierge, used to everybody's leaving presents, asked if he had a gift to leave for Monsieur. Hemingway went back to his car and returned with a case of hand grenades, on which he wrote, "To Picasso from Hemingway."
At Picasso’s studio a month after the liberation, Eluard, full of conspiratorial excitement, whispered in the ear of Roland Penrose, the English Surrealist painter and collector, "I have great news for you: in a week it will be announced publicly that Picasso has joined the Communist Party."
Picasso's entry into the Communist Party turned into a circus, and one of the more entertaining sideshows was the spectacle of Party functionaries going into contortions to demonstrate why his art, which was anathema to all the official canons of Socialist Realism, was nevertheless great art. They gushed and they cooed, and Picasso responded in kind. "All human expression," he once said, "has its stupid side." In his explanations about why he had joined the Communist Party, he proved it: "Joining the Communist Party is the logical conclusion of my whole life, my whole work. … Is it not the Communist Party that works hardest at understanding and molding the world, at helping the people of today and of tomorrow become clear-minded, freer, happier?"
By now Dora knew of the existence of Françoise, but she could not believe that she would ever be supplanted by "the schoolgirl," as she dismissively called her from the precarious heights of her intellectual eminence. "In bed, but not at the table," she told Picasso, which immediately led him to invite Françoise to join him and Dora at dinner.
Picasso's relationship with Françoise had fallen into a pattern: whenever Françoise withdrew or stayed away, he ran after her to seduce her back. But the moment he detected any signs of real tenderness and closeness in their relationship, he pushed her away: "I don't know why I told you to come. It would be more fun to go to a brothel." Or, "There's nothing so similar to one poodle dog as another poodle dog, and that goes for women, too." Once, as they were watching the dust in the sunlight that streamed into the room, he told her, "Nobody has any real importance for me. As far as I'm concerned, other people are like those little grains of dust floating in the sunlight. It takes only a push of the broom and out they go."
While Picasso and Françoise were carrying on their relationship in a state of armed neutrality, Dora was, quite simply, falling apart. One night Picasso went to her apartment and found that she was out. When she finally returned, with her hair disheveled and her clothes torn, she explained that she had been attacked by a man who had stolen her Maltese lapdog. Ten days later she was brought home by a policeman who had found her in the same disheveled and dazed state near the Pont Neuf. This time the story was that she had been attacked by someone who had stolen her bicycle. When her bicycle was found undamaged near the Pont Neuf, Picasso became convinced that these stories were nothing more than a dramatic attempt to rekindle his interest in her. Detemmined not to fall for the ruse, he went on as though nothing was happening -- until it became unavoidably clear that something was.
One morning, in breach of Picasso's rule that she was not to come to the rue des Grands-Augustins unless specifically invited, Dora arrived unbidden and unannounced. She found Picasso talking with Eluard. There were no preambles. "You both should get down on your knees before me, you ungodly pair," she cried. "I have the revelation of the inner voice. I see things as they really are, past, present and future. If you go on living as you have been, you'll bring down a terrible catastrophe on your heads." And to underline her words she grabbed both men by the arms and tried to bring them down on their knees. Sabartés was immediately dispatched to call Jacques Lacan, the psychiatrist whom Picasso consulted for every kind of medical problem, including the common cold. He came to the studio, and when he left, he took Dora with him. He kept her in his clinic for three weeks, treating her with electric shock and starting her in analysis, which would continue long after she left the clinic.
Picasso narrated Dora's woes to Françoise and extracted the moral for her: "The present always has precedence over the past. That's a victory for you." It was a very different moral from the one that Françoise saw in Dora's story. She expressed her fears and told him that for her the story was bristling with painful warnings. "Let's drop that whole matter," he said in response. "Life is like that. It's set up to automatically eliminate those who can't adapt."
In February of 1946 Françoise was presented with an ultimatum. Their relationship, he said, could not continue in this way: either it was going to become a full relationship, which meant living together, or it had to stop completely. He suggested that she go to a place he had rented in Golfe-Juan, in the South of France, and there make up her mind. "By that time," Françoise said, "I was very much in love with him, but there was also the fear in me of being absorbed by him. I really didn't know what I wanted, so I thought that it would be a good idea to go to the south of France and try and sort out my own feelings."
At the end of May Françoise finally decided to match herself against Picasso full-time. She moved into the rue des Grands-Augustins—or, rather, at the end of an evening together she did not go home. Picasso dictated the letters she wrote to her grandmother and her mother to announce, without revealing very much, that she was going to stay away and live a different kind of life.
It was, right from the beginning, a battle much more ferocious than she had imagined. Looking back, Françoise called it living "like Joan of Arc: wearing one's armor from day till night, proving your strength twenty-four hours a day." She also realized that although she had said yes to living with him, it was a qualified yes: "Not all the wrongs were on his side. Part of me never accepted that I had agreed to live with him. I never embraced him with my whole being. I could have given more of myself. I could have given all of myself, but I didn't."
At the beginning of July, 1946, Picasso announced that they were leaving for the Midi, and that he wanted to stop in Ménerbes to show her Dora's house. To Françoise's alarm, as soon as they arrived he told her that this was where they were spending their holiday. "I made her give us the house," he said, "and now I'm going to make sure that you stay here with me." It was not a happy holiday. Françoise felt that choosing Dora's house for a holiday was a callous act, showing a complete indifference both to Dora's feelings and to her own: "Everything was a trap. He was the perfect trap-setter, and his timing could not have been worse, since Dora was just recovering from her attack of insanity and I was just beginning my life with him."
Even though Françoise was alone with Picasso, Dora seemed to be hovering in the house, and Marie-Thérèse was a definite presence, in the rapturous letters he received from her every day. Françoise, who had looked forward to their time away as a kind of honeymoon after they had started living together, was actually expected to listen, every morning, to selected passionate passages from Marie-Thérèse's letters, punctuated by Picasso's commentary: "Somehow I don't see you writing me a letter like that. … It's because you don't love me enough. That woman really loves me. …" What he did not read to her were his no less passionate letters to Marie-Thérèse. They were, Maya remembers, "full of 'I love you' and 'I love you' and 'I love only you' and 'You are the best in the world.'"
Françoise began to dream of escaping from Picasso and from the oppressive presence of his past—as far away as Tunisia. Luc Simon, a painter friend, had arranged a job for her there, making designs to record the local arts and crafts before they disappeared. She plotted it all in her mind, and one afternoon when Picasso was out of the house, she left. Since she had no money, she had decided to hitch a ride to Marseilles, where she had friends, and borrow from them her fare to North Africa. She had not been on the main road long before a car stopped for her. It all seemed to be going according to plan except for one thing: the car was Picasso's blue Peugeot. His first reaction was anger and incomprehension. "You must be out of your mind," he cried. But then, as always when she wanted to leave him, he knew with uncanny accuracy just what to say to bring her back: "You must not listen to your head for things like that. You'll talk yourself out of the deepest things in life. What you need is a child. That will bring you back to nature and put you in tune with the rest of the world." By now he had already pushed her inside the car, kissed her, and held her close to him.
Once she was back, nothing seemed further from her thoughts than Tunisia. In fact, she decided to follow Picasso's advice to think less and obey her heart more, wherever it led her. "You won't know what it means to be a woman until you have a child," he said, and she, who had up until then dismissed the idea of motherhood, was no longer so sure. "Before I went to live with him," she remembered, "that was one thing I absolutely had made up my mind on: I didn't want to have children. And that was one thing he absolutely had made up his mind on: I was going to have children." A little over a month later, back at the house in Golfe-Juan, where they settled after they left Ménerbes, she was pregnant.
On May 15, 1947, at the Belvédere Clinic in Boulogne, Françoise gave birth to a baby boy.
At first Picasso was fascinated with baby Claude, who looked with every day that passed more and more like him, and he was happy to have taken greater possession of Claude's mother. "He always wanted her very near to him," said the writer Dominique Desanti, who visited them a few times in Golfe-Juan in the summer of 1947.
They were a very striking couple together. She was so beautiful and he was really astonishing, so aesthetically they were very striking to look at. He would make aggressive remarks meant to put down and humiliate her in front of others and she would laugh and make what he said seem innocuous. He would refer to her as "the woman." "What has the woman made for dinner?" he would ask. Or he would look at an erotically dressed woman on a postcard and sigh: "What a dream to have such a woman in front of you." And Françoise would laugh and diffuse it: "It's very easy. We can do that. Just get me a dress like that and I'll put it on— it would be a very amusing disguise." She never looked cross or humiliated; she always made you feel that they were acting in a play. That was his way of being; he was cruel whether it was with his woman, his best friends or whoever was around if he felt like it. So if you decided to live with him, you needed unusual strength and unusual maturity to find your part in his play and improvise the text.
The artist Picasso most enjoyed discussing aesthetic questions with was Alberto Giacometti, partly because he was too much of a visionary to think of them purely in aesthetic terms. Giacometti had further earned his secret respect by never fawning over him. The two men visited each other often, and sometimes, like naughty schoolboys, they went to a nearby café and pored over the pornographic magazines that Picasso had brought along.
At other times they discussed their work. "He accepted Giacometti's criticisms," the art historian James Lord said, "but at the same time resented having done so, and the perverse side of his nature—always powerful—led him to make fun of Alberto behind his back. … Making light of the sculptor's anxiety and frustration, he said, 'Alberto tries to make us regret the masterpieces he hasn't done.'"
When he was in a mood to be truthful, Picasso conceded that Giacometti's work represented "a new spirit in sculpture." He displayed a gratuitous meanness, however, one day at Giacometti's studio, when such an expression of appreciation could have made all the difference to Giacometti's livelihood. He was there when, unexpectedly, Christian Zervos, who would devote his life to cataloging Picasso's work, arrived with an Italian collector. Three times Zervos asked Picasso if he agreed with him on the merits of a particular sculpture that he hoped the Italian might buy, and three times Picasso refused to reply.
The result was what Picasso knew it would be. Faced with the conspicuous silence of the world's most celebrated painter, the Italian collector left empty-handed. "He amazes me," Giacometti said once. "He amazes me as a monster would, and I think he knows as well as we do that he's a monster."
At the beginning of August, Picasso and Françoise drove to Vence to visit Matisse, who had been working on the design of a Dominican chapel and had even agreed to underwrite its cost. "You're crazy to make a chapel for those people," Picasso immediately began to rage. "Do you believe in that stuff or not? If not, do you think you ought to do something for an idea that you don't believe in?" "Why don't you build a market instead?" he cried out on another occasion. "You could paint fruits and vegetables."
Matisse reported the outburst to Father Couturier, the Dominican priest and champion of modern art who was also posing for the preparatory designs for the panel of Saint Dominic. "I couldn't care less," Matisse told the priest, his equanimity and his conviction quite undisturbed. "I have greens more green than pears and oranges more orange than pumpkins. So why build a market?"
When Picasso and Françoise went to see him again and Picasso again criticized the project, Matisse was more explicit: "As far as I'm concerned, this is essentially a work of art. It's just that I put myself in the state of mind of what I'm working on. I don't know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I'm some kind of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer."
And later, since Picasso would not let go of his obsessive fury at the thought of the chapel, Matisse told him, "Yes, I do pray and you pray too, and you know it all too well: when everything goes badly, we throw ourselves into prayer . . . And you do it—you, too. It's no good saying no." Matisse had taken to treating Picasso like a brilliant and precious but recalcitrant son. He listened to him but had no intention of heeding what he said.
Matisse's vision was clear and compelling: to create a simple "religious space" where people could come "to feel purified and freed of their burdens." "In the end," he told Picasso, "it's not worth trying to be too clever. You are like me: what we are all looking for in art is to rediscover the atmosphere of our First Communion." The First Communion was a powerful symbol for Matisse, embodying the serenity that he himself radiated.
It was this serenity, this peace beyond his understanding, that Picasso was fighting with his explosions against the idea of the chapel. And there was something else. Matisse gave expression to it at the dedication of the chapel: "This chapel for me is the culmination of an entire life's work and the flowering of an enormous, sincere, and difficult labor. It is not a labor I chose but for which destiny chose me at the end of my road. … I consider it, despite all its imperfections, my masterpiece, an effort resulting from an entire life dedicated to the search for truth." Picasso, too, longed for such a culmination, for the "ultimate" painting, yet felt further and further away from it. "One swallows something, is poisoned by it, and eliminates the toxic" was his description of his process of working. Since he believed that there was no truth to be revealed at the end of the road, did he really paint as a catharsis, merely to cast out the toxic, increasingly trapped in his own virtuosity?
“My features were all that mattered to him," Françoise said. "He never sought access to my spirit. So he just missed me as a dynamic force. It was as if he had made a brilliant reproduction of a car without the motor. I felt that on this point we were really apart." But she went on trying. Determined, even after she became pregnant for the second time, to keep up with Picasso's late nights and Claude's early mornings and to continue with her own painting, she found herself sacrificing sleep, getting as little as four hours a night. As for Picasso, he was grappling with the new depths of intimacy that he and Françoise had reached. In the paintings and lithographs he made of her early in 1949, serenity jostles with aggression and chaos with a starry sky. Love and hate, trust and betrayal, wrestled in the deep recesses of his soul, and, afraid of probing the darkness, he began to flee from the newfound intimacy.
On April 19, 1949, the day of the opening in Paris of the second World Peace Congress, organized by the Communist Party, Françoise went to see Dr. Fernand Lamaze. The baby was not due for another month, but he found her in such a rundown state that he instructed her to check in to the Belvédere Clinic at once. She went back to the rue des Grands-Augustins, told Picasso what had happened, and asked him if their chauffeur, Marcel, could drive her to the clinic. Irritated at having his day disturbed, Picasso told her that he needed Marcel to drive him to the Peace Congress. "If you need a car," he snapped, "you'll have to find another solution. Why don't you call an ambulance?" Had he not already given her enough? Since he had given her the greatest of all things, since he had given her himself, since they had possessed the universe together, how could she be petty enough to ask for little things like a car to drive her to the clinic?
Fortunately, Marcel had an earthy sense of priorities. He suggested that nothing would be easier than to drop her at the clinic on the way to the Congress. But even a detour was too much of an inconvenience. Finally, a compromise was reached: Marcel took Picasso to the Congress and came back to fetch Françoise. They arrived at the Belvédere Clinic at five o'clock. At eight o'clock that night she gave birth to a little girl, Ann Paloma Gilot.
Every Thursday and Sunday, Marcel drove Picasso to Juan-les-Pins, where Marie-Thérèse and Maya were spending their summer holidays -- less than ten miles away from Picasso's new family. For some time now Françoise had been campaigning for an end to this situation. She found it absurd to go on pretending that there was nobody else in Picasso's life. Why, she kept asking, shouldn't Maya meet Claude and Paloma? Why shouldn't she meet Marie-Thérèse? Why have Maya continue to grow up in a lie, hearing at school or reading in newspapers and magazines things that her mother denied at home? "It's the easiest way to go crazy," Françoise told Picasso, "not knowing if you are seeing the sun at noon or the moon. You pretend you are unusual, then let's really lead an unusual life, instead of playing hide-and-seek with the truth." He did not like the idea of Françoise trying to put an end to his games, but at the same time he was intrigued by the possibilities that would be opened up by such an encounter. He finally agreed to invite Marie-Thérèse and Maya to visit them at La Galloise. "With a bit of luck," he told Françoise, "you might even come to blows!"
But Françoise had begun to untangle Picasso's strategy. "He always put those around him in competition with each other—one woman against another, one dealer against another, one friend against another. He was masterful at using one person like the red flag and the other like the bull. While the bull was busy charging against the red flag, Pablo could, unnoticed, deal his wounding thrusts. And most people didn't even think to look who was hiding behind the red flag."
It was too late for Marie-Thérèse. For years François had been the red flag Picasso had used to taunt her, and she had allowed herself to fall victim to his strategy of dividing and conquering. "She had grown to hate Françoise," Maya says, "and she wanted me to hate her too."
When in the summer of 1949 Marie-Thérèse finally found herself in front of her adversary, there was only one thing she really wanted to tell her, and when they were alone for a few moments, she did: "Whatever you may be thinking, there is no way that you could ever break our bond and take my place." "I can't take your place," Françoise replied, "and I don't wish to. The place I'm in is one that was vacant." Françoise knew that Marie-Thérèse was the red flag, not the enemy. She also knew that "one truth does not annihilate another truth and one relationship does not invalidate another, in the same way that you don't love your first child less because you have a second one."
Having the blindfold taken off was at first very hard on Maya. Suddenly, at thirteen, she was confronted with a little half-brother and a baby half-sister and another woman at the center of her father's life. "When she first saw Claude and Paloma, she wanted to kill them," Françoise recalls, "but that, of course, had been instigated in her by her mother. When she was allowed to have her own experience of her father's new family, it all changed and she was happy that the charade was over. " Many years later Claude would tell Maya's husband, "You know, the first children of Maya were myself and Paloma."
Françoise seemed to have everything, and yet gradually, and at first almost imperceptibly, it became clear to her that the vital current was missing. It started with her health. She had heavy hemorrhages, and was feeling spent. She found it hard to recover from Paloma's birth, and her exhaustion and hemorrhaging made it impossible for Picasso and her to continue their active sex life. "Pablo had tremendous sexual needs, and I began to feel harassed. Also I felt tremendously burdened with the children and all the duties of our life and all the people around, especially as Pablo made it really hard for me to get any stable organization going at the house that could support me and take some of the burden off. It was always 'No, I don't want him, no, I don't want her, no, I don't want this, no, I don't want that."' Many nights he would wake her up as often as half a dozen times, insisting that something was wrong with "the money," his nickname for the children—that he could not hear any breathing and that she should get up and check. Making sure the children were all right would often wake them up, and Françoise had to spend even more time coaxing them back to sleep before she could go back to bed herself.
By the time fall came, Picasso had added another arduous task to her daily routine. He had bought an old perfumery in the rue du Fournas, in Vallauris, which he had converted into his painting and sculpture studios, and he insisted that Françoise was the only person who could build the fires in the morning so that the place would be warm enough for him to begin work there in the afternoon. So every morning from November on, no matter what time she had gone to sleep, Françoise stoked the furnace at La Galloise and then bicycled down to the rue du Fournas to start the fires there. Picasso would sleep until noon most days and wake up grumpy but recharged, while Françoise's health continued to deteriorate.
Even when they were together, she felt that Picasso was far away from her. She withdrew into her own world, kept her suspicions and her fears to herself, and watched as her relationship with Picasso began to feel more and more like a business partnership. She managed his dealings with galleries, publishers, and the world, and immersed herself in her own work. Picasso was pleased that she had a contract with Kahnweiler, pleased that Paul Rosenberg had also asked to represent her, pleased that her drawings and lithographs would soon be illustrating books of poems by Verdet and Eluard. And Françoise was grateful for any signs, however spasmodic, that she existed for him as something more than a useful adjunct. At the same time, she was "chilled by the growing recognition that I had to pay for any signs of affection on his part by the pain he caused me when he immediately switched and became harsh and cruel. He called it 'the high cost of living, ' but it was really the high cost of living with Pablo. Any time he was at all loving or caring and I allowed myself to relax and be open and vulnerable, he would turn."
When she was not attending to his business, to her own work, or to the children, Françoise's main release was crying. As always, the smell of pain brought out the sadist in Picasso. "You were a Venus when I met you," he told her once when he caught her crying. "Now you're a Christ— and a Romanesque Christ, at that, with all the ribs sticking out to be counted. I hope you realize you don't interest me like that. … You should be ashamed to let yourself go— your figure, your health. … Any other woman would improve after the birth of a baby, but not you. You look like a broom. Do you think brooms appeal to anybody? They don't to me."
To add to Françoise's problems, Picasso began a very public affair with Geneviève Laporte, whom he had first met after the Liberation, when she came to interview him for her school newspaper. "It was the loss of innocence and the end of trust," Françoise said. "From then on not a day passed that I did not discover one more corpse in one more dark corner of a closet. I felt as though I was stepping deeper and deeper into a slimy pond. My whole universe had crumbled."
In the fall of 1952 Françoise issued a warning: she told Picasso that she could no longer find any "deep meaning" in their union and could see "no reason for staying." It was a warning but also a plea. Picasso's response was to act as though he wanted to give her every possible reason to leave. His life became a comedy of Don Juanism indulged—an old man darting about the countryside, driven not so much by desire as by the fear of waning passions. It turned out to be an occupation infinitely more exhausting than work, and each time he returned to La Galloise, haggard and worn out, he would ask Françoise defiantly if she still wanted to leave him. "I began to despise him," she said, "and I could not forgive him for turning the man I had loved into the man I despised. He had been transformed into a dirty old man, and it was all so grotesque and so ridiculous that I could no longer even be jealous."
Toward the end of the year Françoise went to Paris to discuss the sets and costumes she had been commissioned to design for Janine Charrat's ballet Heracles, which was to open in the spring. While she was there, she wrote a letter to Picasso telling him all the things that she had had such difficulty expressing to him in person: the tragedy of love denied that their relationship had become; the ways in which he had disfigured and violated their love; his betrayal not just of her and of what they had had together but, even more important, of what their love could have bloomed into; all the anguish he had caused her; and what had been the hardest thing for her to accept—his continued refusal to admit the truth about the other women in his life, even after she had confronted him with it. She ended the letter by telling him that she would not return to Vallauris and to him unless he finally told the truth.
He rushed to Paris. He knew, with the unerring instinct of all great manipulators, that the time had come for a theatrical confession. He arrived at the rue Gay-Lussac holding her letter in his hand. "Everything you wrote in the letter is the truth," he admitted. "And it's such a beautiful letter—you write so well. And not at all in a way that is demeaning to me." Then he cried. For the first time since she had known him, he cried and asked for forgiveness. He also promised that he would immediately end all affairs. And to prove that he meant it, he told her that at that very moment Geneviève Laporte was waiting for him in the restaurant around the corner and that he was going to go down and tell her that it was over. He went and quickly came back and cried some more. But Françoise did not cry; she realized that just as he was leaving Vallauris to come to her to confess and to ask for forgiveness, he had made an appointment to meet Geneviève in the neighborhood restaurant. Much as she would have loved to, Françoise could not believe that the man facing her with tears streaming down his face was a transformed man. Yet at the same time she decided, with her eyes open, to try once again. Yes, she said, she would stay.
The next day at six in the evening, as she passed the restaurant, Françoise saw Geneviève Laporte through the window, alone and waiting. The following day, she was again waiting, and the day after that. For two hours each night she waited for the man who had told her, "I've never wept over a woman," as he wiped his tears and left their "haven of bliss" to return to Françoise. He never came back to the restaurant, which had been one of their regular meeting places—not because he had really turned a new page but because he had had his fill of her. And there were so many others waiting in line, and time was running out.
At the end of March, Françoise returned to Paris alone to work on the sets and costumes for Heracles. In her free moments she saw a lot of Kostas Axelos, a young Greek philosopher she had met in the summer of 1948. "I was so lonely at the time, he was really a godsend," she said. "At first it seemed so natural and convenient, I didn't think at all about what it might lead to." Then, gradually, he started to challenge all her reasons for staying with Picasso. When she talked of duty, he told her that she was really a coward, avoiding all the trials of her own generation by living with someone who had soared above the battle. When she talked of being prepared to sacrifice her personal happiness, he told her that she was in fact choosing what was most convenient, a position that gave her power by association. When she talked of not letting down her children, he talked of her betrayal of herself. Trained in the arts of persuasion, he was a formidable challenger. "He fought me inch by inch, personally and philosophically," Françoise said, "with all the verbal weapons in his arsenal. Greece had always held a fascination for me, and here was Kostas, the young, handsome philosopher-prince!"
After a month Picasso arrived in Paris with the children. He knew that they were powerful reminders of the life he and Françoise had built together and powerful allies, silently pleading his case. He dutifully attended the opening-night performance of Heracles, sitting in a box with Françoise and Maya. At the end of the performance Françoise left the box to go onstage to take a bow. Axelos was waiting for her backstage; he kissed her, congratulated her, and disappeared into the night, while Françoise went on with Picasso to a gala dinner being given by André Boll, who had written the story of the ballet, in his elegant apartment on the Quai d'Orsay. It was her night, and as the guests were swarming around her to compliment and congratulate her, Picasso could be overheard muttering to himself, "Ballets always bring me bad luck."
At the rue Gay-Lussac, he was writing poems in Spanish, full of loneliness, violence, and pain. "It was suddenly a complete reversal of what our life had been like," Françoise said. "He was the one now waiting until I was ready to go back to Vallauris, and when I told him that I wanted to spend more time in Paris alone, he took the children and returned to the South of France to wait for me there. Kostas and I were still intimate friends but nothing more. One night in June, soon after Pablo had left, we went to see a Jacques Tati movie, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. I found it so silly that after half an hour we left. That night was the turning point in our relationship. Kostas put aside the philosophical arguments and addressed me man to woman. He told me that he loved me and that even though I didn't love him yet, he could, for a while, love for both of us and help sustain me while I mustered enough strength to leave Pablo. We became lovers—I think less because of compelling sexual desire and more because he wanted to assert, before I returned to Vallauris, that our relationship was real on many levels, including the sexual one."
As soon as she returned to Vallauris, she was inundated with telegrams and letters from Axelos, all of them intended to strengthen her resolve and all of them ending, "I love you." Picasso asked her what was going on; she told him and added that she had decided to leave with the children on September 30. "I had finally reached the conclusion that my life with Pablo was like a sickness," she said, "and I knew that I had to eliminate everything that was sick in me." He repeated again and again that nobody left a man like him, a challenge that only made her all the more eager to leave. "Wait and see," she told him finally. "If nobody leaves a man like you, you are, in that case, going to see something you have not seen before."
He refused to face the fact that she was indeed leaving—as if his refusal to empower reality with his attention would make it go away. On September 30, 1953, he watched silently and incredulously as the taxi arrived to take Françoise and the children to the station, the driver helped them with their bags, and first the children and then Françoise got into it. All along he had refused to say good-bye. As the taxi pulled away, he uttered one word only, "Merde, " and stalked back into the house.
Françoise's decision to abandon Picasso as death drew closer was a symbol of life leaving him, of death displacing the vitality that had always been his hallmark. He talked of her treachery to whoever would listen, as if, through venting his anger, he could master his grief. But he suffered alone, and on November 28, a month after his seventy-second birthday, he stopped talking, took his despair in hand, and started working. He worked feverishly, and in just over two months produced 180 drawings. The poet Michel Leiris called the series a "visual diary of a hateful season in hell, a crisis in his private life leading him to question everything." In these confessional drawings he is not only old and grotesque but ugly, dwarfish, flabby, and pathetic, trying to capture through his art the vitality that eludes him in life. He is extremely skillful, a superb craftsman, full of imagination and wit in all the different ways he portrays his model and himself, but an air of meaninglessness hangs over the whole enterprise of his art. And the young woman in the series, the eternal feminine in many different guises and disguises, knows it. She is amused by him but cannot take him seriously as an artist and certainly not as a lover. She is much more delighted playing with a monkey or fondling a cat, with its fur, as Rebecca West wrote, "soft against her smooth flesh, its nervous energy crackling against her serenity, her faculty of acceptance bringing the little animal into unity with herself. She is as strongly affirmative as a Greek goddess. " She is the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. And the painter's despair is not just that he is an old man who must give up "his place at the feast of sensual pleasure"; it is that he is an old man who will die without knowing why he has lived and why he has painted. Neither his gifts nor his endless sexual adventures have brought him any closer to the secret of life that the young woman seems to know and from which she seems to draw her serenity and her deep acceptance of everything, including the absurd little old man.
“Picasso was unhappy like only a Spaniard can be unhappy," said the writer Hélène Parmelin. "So the procession of women began. It was horrible. People would come to see us to tell us about this one or the other one that he should meet. I remember one day a very famous woman came to see me to tell me that since I was such a good friend of Picasso's, I should do something for him, and that she knew this young Spanish woman, marvelously proportioned, intelligent, who would be so good for him. I told her that that was not my profession. It was incredible what was going on."
The children watched and waited. "I accepted them all," Maya said, "the ones he brought home and the ones he collected while we were traveling. I used to say, 'She's the last one to date.' As they were getting younger and younger, I could really have fun with some of them." Paulo was less generous: "Whores for daddy" was his conclusion.
With Françoise gone, Picasso could not stand to remain in Vallauris. So in midsummer the court set itself up in Perpignan. In fact, he seriously considered staying there permanently, and the local Communists did their best to persuade him to do so. On August 19 he painted a beautiful portrait of his hostess, the Countess de Lazerme, but the rumor was that it was Rosita Hugué whom he wanted to marry. And then there was Jacqueline Roque, whom he had met at the pottery at Vallauris, where she worked as a salesgirl. Paule de Lazerme described her "watching him like a fox, clearly eager to fill the vacant place." Picasso treated her abysmally—when, that is, he bothered to take any notice of her at all. He made it so humiliatingly clear that he did not want her around that one day she finally decided to leave. Picasso came down to lunch looking and sounding relieved. During lunch Jacqueline called him from the road. "She threatened to kill herself," Picasso announced when he returned to the table, "if she could not come back to Perpignan." His response had been that she could do whatever she liked, provided she left him in peace. That night Jacqueline came back: "You told me to do whatever I liked; so here I am."
Her behavior for the rest of their stay at the Lazermes' showed that returning to Perpignan was the last time she would do whatever she liked. She started calling Picasso "Monseigneur," addressed him in the third person, kissed his hand, and was ready at any moment to spread herself out like a cloak for Monseigneur to walk on. She had clearly decided to accept every humiliation, stifle all pain, and subordinate both her life and her will to his, provided she could just stay around. By the time he took her with him to the rue des Grands-Augustins, at the end of the summer, he had decided to accept her offering. Having failed in his life with a goddess, he settled for the peace of living with a doormat. It was the peace of the grave, but he was a tired man. Dominique Eluard, Paul's third wife, explained, "Françoise had asked of him to stretch to a relationship which was on a higher level and in which she was much more than just the mistress and the vestal virgin. But ultimately I don't think that he was capable of having other than a macho relationship with a woman."
In October he painted Jacqueline in a Rocking Chair—a stocky, matronly little Jacqueline, a far cry from the idealized, long-necked, sphinxlike creature he had painted the previous June. Prophetically, he had shown Jacqueline not as she was but as she would soon become. She had chosen her fate and he had chosen a caretaker to hold the world at bay while he painted with no other goal than to hold death in check. She was a woman he could dominate; but he had not taken into account the tyranny of weakness.
While Picasso was at the Rue Des Grands-Augustins, Françoise called him, asking to come and see him. She wanted to be the first to tell him that she was getting married. She had known Luc Simon, the young painter she was going to marry, since her school days.
Picasso's first reaction was rage. "It's monstrous," he told her. "You think only of yourself." Françoise protested that she had also been thinking of their children. "Luc will help bring up the children," she said. "He is not their father, but he will be a good stepfather, and it will be easier for them to lead a normal life." Picasso's anger was now mixed with incomprehension. "Is that what you call a normal life?" he shouted. "The only normal life would be you, me, and the children."
"There was another purpose to my visit, and I wanted to complete it," Françoise recalled. "I told Pablo that before marrying Luc, I intended to set up a trust for the children, a conseil de famille with my father, Luc, and him as trustees. Since the children officially had no father I wanted to make sure they would be taken care of if anything happened to me. Also I wanted to establish that my marriage would not change Pablo's status toward his children."
Picasso did not want to stay in Paris and he certainly did not wish to return to Vallauris. So the search began for another house in the South of France. In the end he chose La Californie, an ornate turn-of-the-century mansion overlooking Cannes. The "king of junkmen," as Cocteau had called Picasso, took possession of his new kingdom in June and moved with him his jumble of trifles.
Claude and Paloma had come to La Californie for the summer, while Françoise was in Venice on an extended honeymoon. She had asked Picasso many times to take her to Venice, a place she had loved since she was a child. He had repeatedly said no; but now he could not bear the thought of her being there with her young, tall, and handsome husband—all attributes which made the thought that much more irksome to him. "To claim that when you love somebody, you can accept the idea of seeing her go off with some young fellow is very unconvincing," he had told Françoise after seeing Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. "I'd rather see a woman die, any day, than see her happy with someone else. … I'm not interested in these so-called Christian acts of nobility."
One weekend in the fall of 1955, when Claude and Paloma were with Picasso at Kahnweiler's house in the country, and Françoise and Luc were back in Paris, she received a call from him: "I'm not returning the children to you unless you give to Paulo all the drawings and etchings that are in your apartment." "You have to return the children first," she replied, "and then you can send Paulo to pick up the drawings." He returned the children, and the next morning she returned everything except The Woman Flower, which he had specifically given her as a present.
It was an open declaration of war, followed by the conspicuous absence of an invitation for Françoise to exhibit at the Salon de Mai and finally, in November of 1956, by a letter from Kahnweiler terminating her contract. "I began to feel as though I was living in a nightmare," Françoise remembered. The more good news Picasso received about Françoise's new life, as when he heard that she was pregnant, the more determined he was to destroy her. He made it clear that anybody who was her friend was his enemy. She soon got used to art dealers' apologizing for not exhibiting her work, explaining that they could not risk his displeasure. Any evidence that she could not only exist but flourish without him was for Picasso proof of his waning powers. He was addicted to having people be addicted to him, and although there were plenty around him who were, he was obsessed by the one stray sheep.
At La Californie Picasso and Jacqueline settled in to a life of being devoured in the process of devouring each other—she by her smothering possessiveness and he by crushing first her spirit and then her humanity. "When everything went wrong, everything went wrong," Hélène Parmelin wrote.
To an unimaginable degree. The whole world was nothing but trash, friends and enemies alike, there was no truth anywhere, nothing mattered, all was rotten, everything was spoiled, all he asked of the world was to be left in peace, and the bit of chalk he had put down there had disappeared. Jacqueline, I said I would see no one. Do you mean to say so-and-so came, Jacqueline? Well, why did you send him away? . . . Why did you let so-and-so in? I said I would see no one.
The Spoiled Child had met his match in the Terrible Mother, all too eager to enclose him in her deathly womb, the better to foster all that was dark, cruel, gross, and meanspirited in him. Even when he shut himself away to work, Jacqueline clung to him from behind the closed doors. "It's not merely that he might happen to want something," she said. "But I wouldn't be happy thinking that he might want something merely because I wasn't there." "One had to stay at La Californie, one's mind's eye on Monseigneur," Parmelin wrote. "Not go even to the bottom of the garden. Not even outside the house. Besides, at fixed times, he had to be given his pills, or his drops: he was taking homeopathic medicines for whatever was the matter with him. What was the matter with him? Nothing. But he took the medicines. Small doses. Moreover he might want something." If things went well for him, things went well for her. She sank herself in him with a monomania that excluded even her own daughter, who had to subsist on the few emotional crumbs her mother could spare. "When one is lucky enough to have Picasso in front of one, one doesn't look at the sun!" she snapped when, one night, someone pointed out the beauty of a sunset. Jacqueline became his secretary, housekeeper, and press-clipping service, and the translator of his will into action; and Picasso became the tool through which she could assert her will over the rest of the world, the means through which she could experience a sense of power that, even if her imagination had not been as limited as it was, she would never have imagined possible.
The main source of her power was her role as gatekeeper, although a lot of the time the gatekeeper only conveyed Monseigneur's wishes. He was away, asleep, working, on the beach, at the bullfights, in Paris—any one of those authorized excuses would be used to send away the old friends or the new admirers that he did not want to receive, or at least did not want to receive at that moment.
In the summer of 1957 Jacqueline fell sick and had to have a stomach operation. From now on she would frequently be ill. She had problems with her stomach, problems with her eardrums, gynecological problems; often she felt so exhausted she could barely drag herself to bed. When she was sick, she slept in the room next to Monseigneur's, so as not to bother him. And he would presage in his work the stages of her recurring cycle of sickness and recovery. "Isn't it curious," he said, "that by the time she is ill I am painting pictures in which she appears to be well again? I don't understand it. I always seem to be ahead of events." It was hard to distinguish cause and effect.
In the summer of 1960 Françoise began trying through lawyers to gain some basic rights for her children—starting with the right to use their father's name. During her prolonged negotiations with Maître Bacqué de Sariac, Picasso's lawyer, Françoise received an extremely unexpected proposal from Picasso. "Would you consider divorcing Luc Simon and marrying him?" Maître de Sariac asked on his client's instructions. "That would certainly be the easiest way to regularize the status of the children. Then you could divorce, but at least the children would have been legitimized."
"For the sake of the children": that was the argument to which Picasso's emissary kept returning as Françoise listened to him week after week during the final months of 1960. Paulo and Claude joined the chorus encouraging her to say yes. At first Françoise was incredulous and could not bring herself even to contemplate the offer. But gradually Picasso's proposal, like an earthquake, began to change the landscape of her life. Almost despite herself, she began to look at her life with new eyes. During the day she worked in her studio in her family home in Neuilly. Her father had died in l957, so only her mother was there now. She would return to the rue du Val de Grâce in the evening, and she and Luc would have dinner with the children. "We were very well behaved in front of them," Françoise said, "but after they had gone to bed, there was argument after argument." Luc, who had been like a father to Claude and Paloma, was not happy about their taking Picasso's name. Picasso's hostility toward him since his marriage to Françoise had permeated the art world and had been devastating to his career; and now the children he loved would carry the name of the man who had done everything he could to destroy him.
Looking back over the years since her marriage to Luc, Françoise saw clearly for the first time how much Picasso's vindictiveness had poisoned their lives. Was it really possible, she began to wonder, to put an end to his corrosive resentment? To have a life where she could talk to the father of her children without going through lawyers? To be able to function in the art world without the stigma of Picasso's enmity? An awful burden lifted from her at the thought of life without the shadow that Picasso, the destroyer, had cast over her world.
There was something else that Picasso's proposal made her confront: that much as she loved Luc and mistrusted Picasso, she had never loved anyone with the intensity with which she had loved Picasso. And Luc knew it. He had even written a letter to Picasso, telling him that "Françoise may be my wife, but she will always be yours." Life had not been easy with the Furies of Picasso's vengeance pursuing her, but Françoise had been able not only to survive but to heal her wounds and to grow. And with the benefit of distance she had seen ways in which she might have been able to achieve greater intimacy and depth in her relationship with Picasso. She saw the mistakes that she had made. What if she had learned Spanish? She remembered how enchanted he was every time he saw her take an interest in anything Spanish, as when she had translated Góngora's poems; being able to speak the language of his birth would definitely have brought them closer together. What if she had been more flexible, if she had opened her heart more, if she had mistrusted less? What, above all, if spiritually she had reached a place where she could have loved him unconditionally without losing her own center, where she could have surrendered fully without capitulating to domination, and from which she could have led him away from his own self-destructiveness?
Maybe she was dreaming. Maybe it was too late and there were too many ghosts from the past. But if she accepted Picasso's proposal, then at least her children would be legitimized, she would disarm some of Picasso's hostility, and Luc would be able to follow his career without the curse of having Picasso as an adversary.
In January of 1961 Claude and Paloma were legally awarded Picasso's name. At the end of February Françoise asked Luc for a divorce. On March 2, in utmost secrecy, Pablo Picasso and Jacqueline Roque got married in the town hall of Vallauris in the presence of Paul Derigon, the Communist mayor, and Maître Antebi, a lawyer from Cannes, and his wife. The banns, at Picasso's request, were not published on the door of the town hall. Jacqueline had been Madame Picasso for twelve days before the news hit the newspapers. During that time Picasso had carefully refrained from informing Maître de Sariac, who had continued clearing the path for his client's marriage to Françoise.
On March 14 Françoise opened her morning paper and read that the man she was preparing to marry had been married twelve days ago. The news made her shiver. She suddenly felt touched by evil. In a state of emotional upheaval, Françoise decided to go ahead with the divorce, even though there was no longer any immediate reason for it. She had never before seen so unequivocally Picasso's power of destruction.
Marriage transformed Jacqueline from victim to victor, and crossing the line from mistress to wife unleashed the destructiveness that had been nursed in her through seven years of being treated as something subhuman. She was now Madame Picasso and the mistress of all she surveyed. A sinister assertion of her new power was the campaign she immediately began against his children.
Claude and Paloma had always provided a bitter reminder of the woman she replaced, of the woman she hated more than any other. They were also reminders of the fact that she was never going to have her own children by Picasso. She had tolerated their presence for the holidays, as she had tolerated everything and everybody that had been part of his life while she was uncertain about how permanent a part she would be. But now she knew and the world knew, and there would no longer be any brakes on the exercise of her will. Also, the children were fast becoming adults—clever, attractive, and now, to her horror, carrying their father's name. They were increasingly hard to tolerate, and she no longer had to tolerate them. She started feeding Picasso lies, about how little his children cared for him, how their minds had been poisoned by their mother. She even said the fourteen-year-old Claude was a drug addict and should not be allowed to join them for the Easter holidays. Both children were promptly disinvited.
The isolation of Picasso took place by stages, but it began with the discounting of every emotional claim. What Jacqueline wanted was Picasso all to herself, and she was ruthlessly clear about how to achieve her goal, since what he wanted was to lose himself in work. Later she would refer to Picasso's paintings during their life together as their "children," and she wanted nothing to interfere with the production of more and more children—certainly not the presence of real children from his past. There was a window on the second floor of Notre-Dame-de-Vie, their home in Mougins, looking down on Picasso's studio. From that window Jacqueline watched for hours as Picasso made their children. These were her great moments—just she and Monseigneur and the prospect of more and more of their children populating the earth.
For Picasso, who in October of 1961 celebrated his eightieth birthday, work was the only weapon he could pit against death, his great adversary. He went on working— paintings, drawings, linocuts, seventy Jacquelines in 1962 alone -- but it was work born of panic and of the frenzy that panic brings. Both in his life and in his work he was retreating. It was the time of giving up, settling down, and going back: giving up the hope of unearthing reality and truth, settling down as if life's gravity had taken such a toll that he had to marry his caretaker, and going back to the mother who would order his reality, meet his every wish, and demand nothing in return except to possess him. He did not even have to maintain the fiction of loving her. He could be as estranged, emotionally absent, cruel, or unfair as he felt like, and she would still be there taking care of him, because that is a mother's job. He started calling Jacqueline Maman. And of all the women in his life, Jacqueline looked most like his mother, and came to look more and more like her as she grew stockier and sturdier with every year. Picasso liked her to give him his bath, and threw violent temper tantrums if she was not there when he wanted her.
In his work, too, he was regressing—not to an earlier stage of his own life but to an earlier, much earlier, stage of man. The people populating his canvases were not modern; they were not even Egyptian or Greek. They were the old Mesopotamian people seen in the art that has survived from those ancient times: stout, squat, with hardly any neck, and, above all, with the pupils suspended in their eyes, nowhere touching the lids—big, black holes, just emerging from the cosmic darkness, fearfully watchful and still in the grip of a primeval terror.
Two of the key people in his long life died in 1963: Braque in August, Cocteau in October. Picasso went on working. Perhaps work could command death out of his orbit. If not work, then what? His children, far from giving him a sense of life going on, were a bitter reminder of his life coming to an end. During the Christmas holidays he told Claude that this was the last time he could visit him. "I am old and you are young," he explained. "I wish you were dead."
Paloma went back for the Easter holidays. "No, you cannot see him," she was told. That Christmas of 1963 was the last time either child would spend time with their father. "Monsieur was 'out' for ten years . . ., " Paloma said, "the person I loved most in the world."
“He had a warrior's mentality," Picasso's cousin Manuel Blasco said. "Fight during the day and fornicate at night." In November of 1965, in conspiratorial secrecy, Picasso was taken to the American Hospital in Neuilly for gall-bladder and prostate surgery. From then on there would be only fighting. For a warrior who had worn his virility like a badge, the end of his sexual life was a terrible calamity. It looked as though the operation might signal the end of his fighting days, too. During the rest of 1965 and up to December of 1966 he drew and he etched, but he did no painting. It was the longest he had ever been away from the battlefield. "When a man knows how to do something," he told the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín, "he ceases being a man if he stops doing it."
He had kept death at bay, but not the despised signals of his inescapable mortality. He had had to give up his Gauloises, his life's most constant companion; his failing eyesight meant that his magnetic gaze was more and more often hidden behind glasses; his growing deafness gave him one more reason to avoid people; and the deep scar from the operation, which, once the curtain of secrecy had been lifted, he defiantly displayed to the few still allowed to visit him, was a constant hateful reminder of what he had lost forever. "Whenever I see you," he told Brassaï, "my first impulse is to reach in my pocket to offer you a cigarette, even though I know very well that neither of us smokes any longer. Age has forced us to give it up, but the desire remains! It's the same with making love. We don't do it anymore, but the desire is still with us!"
The desire and the frustration and the rage and the self-lacerating despair were funneled into his work, and sex in anticipation, sex in action, sex in retrospect became the dominant motif of his painting—once he had sufficiently recovered from what he called the "goring" to start painting again. The reports from Notre-Dame-de-Vie were that Picasso was back to normal -- his own extraordinary normal, of course. In the same way that he had all his life pretended to be an excellent swimmer, he now pretended, as best he could, to be untouched by age. "He only knows how to float and splash about a bit along the shore," wrote Roberto Otero, a bullfighting aficionado who had succeeded in penetrating the fortress of Notre-Dame-de-Vie. "Still, the imitation is so realistic that from a distance nobody could tell if his 'swimming' is authentic or not." And his imitation of being "fresh as the morning dew" was so convincing to all those who wanted to be convinced that the myth of the perpetually vital genius lived on. "One is reminded of the last days of some old vaudeville star: everything, creaking now, is still invented as superlative," the art critic John Berger wrote.
The horror of it all is that it is a life without reality. Picasso is only happy when working. Yet he has nothing of his own to work on. He takes up the themes of other painters' pictures. … He decorates pots and plates that other men make for him. He is reduced to playing like a child. He becomes again the child prodigy.
Picasso was sick, and the couples that filled his work in 1969, kissing, copulating, and suffocating each other, bore the stamp of his sickness. His body was a sack of ills and frustrated desires. The body that had for so long served him so admirably had turned against him. He could not see well, he could not hear well, his lungs fought for breath, his limbs fought for the strength to sustain him, and he fought for the unconsciousness of sleep. But a sickness much more frightening than the inevitable sicknesses of a man close to ninety was the soul-sickness of a man close to death and utterly disconnected from the source of life, a man staring at death and seeing his own fearful imaginings.
On June 30, 1972, Picasso faced the terror that consumed him and drew it. It was his last self-portrait. The next day the art historian Pierre Daix came to visit him. "I made a drawing yesterday," he told him. "I think I have touched on something there. … It is not like anything ever done. " He took the drawing and held it up to his face, and then put it down, without comment. It was a face of frozen anguish and primordial horror held next to the mask that he had worn for so long and that had fooled so many. It was the horror he had painted and the anguish he had caused and which, in his own anguish, he continued to cause. Two months after he drew his last self-portrait, Pablito, his first grandson, tried to see him. He arrived on his motorcycle and showed his identity card. He was turned away, and when he persisted, the dogs were let loose on him and his motorcycle was thrown into a ditch.
On April 1, 1973, Picasso wrote to Marie-Thérèse, telling her again that she was the only woman he had loved. Was he seeing her then as she had first been for him—a vision of beauty and purity, a promise of entering together a forbidden world where abandoned sexuality would lead to a heightened state of being? Or was the letter a Mephistophelian April Fool's joke, the last lie with which to secure her bondage to him, disorient her a little more, and put one more nail in her cross? Perhaps he wrote her from mere force of habit. Perhaps he spoke the truth.
On the Sunday morning of April 8 Jacqueline called Pierre Bernal, Picasso's cardiologist in Paris. Dawn had barely broken. Bernal took the first plane to Nice. Florenz Rance, the local doctor, was already there when he arrived. Sitting up painfully against the pillows, in his beige pajamas, Picasso was gasping for breath. The fingers of the hand he extended to the doctor were blue and swollen. While Dr. Bernal was confirming with his instruments what his professional eye had already seen, Jacqueline, trailing her long red dressing gown, paced up and down the room. The cardiogram showed rattles in both lungs and a dangerously large congestion in the left lung.
"I knew the minute I walked in," Bernal said, "that it was the end. He asked me no questions. He did not realize that he was going to die. I tried to make Jacqueline understand that it was going badly."
"We have already saved him," she said. "You are here. We are going to save him. He doesn't have the right to do this to me, he doesn't have the right to leave me . . . " These were the words she kept repeating through the morning, like an incantation: "He doesn't have the right to do this to me, he doesn't have the right to leave me . . . "
"Where are you, Jacqueline?" Picasso cried from his bedroom. His heart and his lungs were both fast giving out. He tried to talk, but he was suffocating. His words, coming through his gasps for air, sounded like wailing, hard to understand. He mentioned Apollinaire and seemed far away from Notre-Dame-de-Vie, in the spectral world of his past. Then he was once again back in his room "Where are you, Jacqueline?" He turned to Dr. Bernal. "You are wrong not to be married. It's useful." They were his last coherent words.
“When I die,” Picasso had prophesied, "It will be a shipwreck, and as when a huge ship sinks, many people all around will be sucked down with it."
On the morning of Picasso's burial Pablito, excluded from his grandfather's funeral, drank a container of potassium-chloride bleach. He was taken to the hospital in Antibes, where the doctors found that it was too late to save his digestive organs. He died three months later, on July 11, 1973, of starvation.
On October 20, 1977, in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of their meeting, Marie-Thérèse hanged herself in the garage of her house in Juan-les-Pins. She was sixty-eight years old. In a farewell letter to Maya, she wrote of an "irresistible compulsion." "You have to know what his life had meant to her," Maya said later "It wasn't just his dying that drove her to it. It was much, much more than that. … Their relationship was crazy. She felt she had to look after him—even when he was dead! She couldn't bear the thought of him alone, his grave surrounded by people who could not possibly give him what she had given him."
Just after midnight on October 15, 1986, Jacqueline called Aurelio Torrente, the director of the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art, in Madrid, to discuss the final details of the exhibition of her personal selection of Picasso's paintings that was to open in Madrid ten days later. She assured him that she would be there for the opening. At three o'clock in the morning she lay on her bed, pulled the sheet up to her chin, and shot herself in the temple. She had left behind a list of everyone she wanted at her funeral .
These events were part of the dark, tragic legacy Picasso left behind in his life. The legacy of his art has to be seen in conjunction with the legacy of our time. He brought to fullest expression the shattered vision of a century that perhaps could be understood in no other terms; and he brought to painting the vision of disintegration that Schoenberg and Bartók brought to music, Kafka and Beckett to literature. He took to its uttermost conclusion the negative vision of the modernist world—so much that has followed has been footnotes to Picasso. His tragedy was that he longed for the ultimate in painting and died knowing that it had eluded him. Unlike Shakespeare and Mozart, whose prolific creativity he shared, Picasso was not a timeless genius. He was in fact a time-bound genius, a seismograph for the turmoil, doubts, and anguish of the twentieth century. From the time that he shook the art world with Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso was out of love with the world. He saw his role as a painter as fashioning weapons of combat against every emotion of belonging in creation and celebrating life, against nature, human nature, and the God who created it all. "How difficult it is," Picasso had said soon after his eighty-fifth birthday, "to get something of the absolute into the frog pond." But however difficult, is it not the highest function of art to try to get something of the absolute into the frog pond of this world? With prodigious skill, complete mastery of the language of painting, inexhaustible versatility, and monumental virtuosity, ingenuity, and imagination, Picasso showed us the mud in our frog pond and the night over it. Yet there is a sense in all great art that beyond the darkness and the nightmares that it portrays, beyond humanity's anguished cries that it gives voice to, there is harmony, order, and peace. There is fear in Shakespeare's Tempest and in Mozart's Magic Flute, but it is cast out by love; there is horror and ugliness, but a new order of harmony and beauty evolves out of them; there is evil, but it is overcome by good.
Picasso's advanced age was filled with despair and fueled by hatred. As for his art, he had told André Malraux that "he had no need of style, because his rage would become a prime factor in the style of our time." And his rage has become the dominant style of our time. As we move toward the beginning of a new century, what will Picasso, so irrevocably tied to the age that is dying, have to say to the age being born?