16. He Kept One of His Muses Hidden Away For Over a Decade
When Picasso wrote of women being either doormats or goddesses, he may well have had Marie-Thérèse Walter in mind as his doormat. Walter was, by all accounts, an extremely agreeable woman who was entirely happy to devote her life to being an artistic muse for Picasso. He met Walter while still married to his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and quickly became obsessed with her. He was so fixated on her that he went to the trouble and expense of securing a private apartment to keep her isolated and to himself.
Picasso managed to hide the existence of Walter from his wife and even from his closest friends for many years. While many of his friends knew that he had a mistress who was also serving as an artistic muse, they didn’t know her name or even her appearance beyond what they saw in sketches and portraits. Picasso reportedly did not find the athletic and unassuming Walter intellectually stimulating, so perhaps this partly explains why he seemed to make no effort to introduce her into his artistic circles as he did with so many of his later mistresses.
Ultimately, Walter was hidden away from both the art world and Picasso’s personal world for almost a decade. In that time, she inspired numerous paintings, sketches, and etchings. Walter gave birth to their daughter, Maya in 1935. Picasso’s first wife learned that Picasso had a pregnant mistress earlier that year and moved with their son. Picasso left Walter shortly after the birth of their daughter in favor of a new and younger mistress. Walter’s life tragically ended in suicide four years after Picasso’s death in 1973.
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