Alfredo Valenzuela I Seville, (EFE).- Picasso firing a revolver in the middle of the street, smoking opium, attending boxing matches and the circus, interested in flamenco and bullfighting while suffering the hardships of Parisian bohemia. This is how his first wife, Fernande Olivier, portrays him in “Picasso and his friends”, republished on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
This memory book by Fernande Olivier was published for the first time in Paris in 1934, twenty years after the experiences it contains took place, his life with Picasso and his friends between 1904 and 1912, a period in which the artist himself , who then painted at night, slept in the morning and walked and went to the cafes in the afternoon, was in charge of sweeping his studio and doing the daily shopping.
The precariousness was such that Oliver recounts how he spent two months without leaving the artist’s workshop for lack of shoes or how many mornings he stayed in bed fearing the cold that was in the workshop without heating or how one day they were able to eat thanks to the fact that the writer Gertrude Stein and her brother, whose house they visited regularly, bought some drawings for their collection.
“A faithful companion of the years of misery, I have not known how to be the one of the years of prosperity”, confesses Fernande Olivier in the first chapter of these memoirs, in which she also recounts the birth of cubism and which are full of surprising observations such as: «I have never seen Picasso read too much».
lolo the donkey
Matisse, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Modigliani, Paul Poiret, Suzanne Valadon and Mauricio Utrillo, among many others, are Picasso’s friends who shared adventures and misadventures with the artist from Malaga, recounted with a certain humor by Oliver, such as the police investigation of the who were subjected to the theft of some statuettes from the Louvre Museum.
Olivier recounts that it was a friend of Apollinaire’s who “for bragging, for fun, or to prove that it was very easy to steal from the Louvre, had taken from the museum, in the course of several visits, some masks and statuettes”, and Apollinaire later gave Picasso a couple of those stone masks without mentioning their origin although recommending that they not remain in sight, so the painter kept them in the back of a closet.
Picasso was not guilty in that case, but he had to make himself available to the investigating judge as a witness and cross Paris in the company of a policeman, after which he lived in anguish for several days, believing that he was being watched.
Owner of three cats, two dogs, a turtle and a monkey, Picasso, an animal lover, was frequently visited by the owner of a cabaret where artists met and who used to arrive at the painter’s studio accompanied by his donkey, called Lolo.
Spain, stimulus for Picasso
Lolo was already a “painter ass” when he visited Picasso – one day he ate a packet of tobacco and two silk handkerchiefs that someone left on a divan -, since shortly before the writer Roland Dorgelès devised the joke of tying a brush to the tail, along with several pots of paint, so that Lolo himself absentmindedly brushed a canvas that would later be hung in the Salón de los Independientes, for the admiration of some art critic.
Model, painter, writer, Fernande Olivier dedicates several chapters to her poet and writer friends, such as Jean Moreas, who always received Picasso saying: “Tell me, Picasso, did Velázquez have talent?”, and another on the arrival in Paris of the futurists, willing to oust cubism, adopting “outlandish positions” such as wearing each sock of a different color, but always matching the tie.
Everything related to Spain stimulated Picasso, who always returned exultant from his visits to his country, where, unlike what he did in Paris, he lived at night and, writes Olivier: «I never saw him work in Barcelona, where he had his family, although he devoted as little time as possible to it». EFE