I recently revisited the Musée Picasso in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris and highly recommend the current temporary exhibition, entitled Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Fille de Pablo (on until 12/31/2022), held to celebrate the addition of nine new masterpieces to the national collection. Maya (a nickname, her actual name was María de la Concepción) was Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter’s daughter, born in 1935. She wasn’t Picasso’s first child — he had a son, Paulo, from a previous relationship, with Russian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova. He also had two other children after Maya, with painter Françoise Gilot. The exhibition focuses on Picasso’s relationship with Maya and its influence on his work. Despite the occasionally confusing museum signage, Picasso’s relationship with his daughter is a great guiding thread through a big body of work that can be daunting at times. The museum is quite big and there is much to see, so you can easily spend three or four hours wandering the halls. Going on a weekday morning is a good idea, to beat the crowds and take the time to read the descriptions which offer plenty of historical and political context and are translated in English.
One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition is Maya in Pablo’s Eye, a documentary projected on the first floor of the museum. It is subtitled in English and deals with Picasso’s close relationship with Maya, from her birth up until their eventual falling out. The movie is touching and makes use of family photos to offer a glimpse into Picasso’s life. On the same floor are portraits of Picasso’s other children along with related objects and photographs. Picasso was fascinated with everyday objects — during the war and German occupation, he fashioned dolls and figurines for his daughter out of basic materials such as wood, wire and fabric. You can also see several drawings by Picasso, created at the request of his daughter, who afterwards “graded” them. Picasso drew Maya as well, charting her physical and psychological development in his drawings. He also dedicated a series of fourteen portraits to her between 1938 and 1939, some of which are on display.
A part of the exhibition likely to leave a lasting impression after your visit (whether you wish it or not!), is the Memorabilia room, which not only features photos of Picasso and his family on holiday at the beach or at corrida matches, but also nail clippings and hair belonging to the painter. It seems that he was quite superstitious and sent these to Maya’s mother for safe-keeping, in an effort to ward off curses.
The rest of the exhibition on the floor above offers more interesting insights, with photos of the artist’s last studio, a house in Cannes called La Californie. Here we discover the big, luminous, rambling rooms where Picasso worked and where he and his wife often entertained their friends.
Learning more about Picasso’s work is fascinating, but learning more about his life and where he drew his inspiration from is at least as compelling. The Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Fille de Pablo exhibition allows you to do just that.
Musée Picasso, 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris. Open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:30am to 6:00pm and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9:30am to 6 :00pm, the ticket is 14€, you can buy it here: https://billetterie.museepicassoparis.fr/content
If you are looking for complementary reading, several books on Picasso are available at Bill & Rosa’s Book Room.
Article by Iasmina Clarke