Maya, Pablo’s daughter: Picasso’s “intimacy”

“A dive into the intimate”: this is how Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, describes to AFP the unprecedented exhibition dedicated to her mother, Maya, first daughter of the icon of modern art, presented until the end of December in Paris at the Picasso Museum.

“It’s a real dive into the intimate”she adds, secretly.

“Maya with a doll” (1938), “Maya with a doll and a horse” (1938), “Maya in a sailor suit” (1938), “Maya on a boat” (1938), “Maya with an apron” (1938 )… A dozen unstructured portraits, all in color, of the little “Maya-Ruiz Picasso, daughter of Pablo”, open this “unpublished” journey in the filial and family universe of the artist.

“This is the first time that these portraits painted between 1938 and 1939, scattered around the world, have been brought together”, specifies the granddaughter of the painter, curator of the exhibition with Emilia Philippot, curator and specialist in Picasso.

Barely past this first step, a short film introduces the visitor to the heart of a family life jealously protected by Picasso.

And his passion for this first female child, born on September 5, 1935 in the greatest secrecy of his union with Marie-Thérèse Walter, 28 years his junior, bursts into the open: an “upheaval” and a “resurrection” , explains his granddaughter.

Maya is the “nickname of Maria (de la Concepcion), first name given by Picasso to his daughter in homage to his sister who died when he was 14 years old, with the distorted pronunciation in the mouth of the little girl. She was all her life “the privileged accomplice and confidante of her father, the only one authorized to enter his studio” at any time of the day and night.

– “Fusion” link –

Holidays in the south, bullfights, swimming… The exhibition shows how Maya, “the little sardine”, turns out to be an outstanding 20-year-old assistant to her father on the film that Henri-Georges Clouzot entitled “The Picasso Mystery”, produced at the Victorine studios in Nice in 1955 in an attempt to capture the mystery of creation and which won the jury prize at the Cannes festival a year later.

Drawings, paintings, poems, sculptures and many photos of the artist and his daughter testify to this “complicity” as well as the very “fusional” link that Picasso maintained with “his blended family, atypical for the time but not for him”, a “modern man” and “a loving father”, adds Diana Widmaier-Picasso.

She speaks modestly of the “cryptic representation” of her grandmother in several paintings because “he is still married to Olga (Khokhlova) when he meets her. It is almost a symbol of a mystical union”, confides- she.

She deciphers for the layman the key moments of creation and the “codes” associated in the work with the presence of this “blonde muse with a Greek profile”, “athletic” and with “generous forms often associated with the themes of the moon and of the sun”.

Same modesty when she evokes Picasso’s “metamorphoses” (formal) “in these crucial years after his meeting with Dora Maar who comes to break the family cocoon”.

– Family archeology –

Very attentive to his four children – Paulo, his eldest son, born of his union with Olga Khokhlova; Maya; Claude and Paloma, born of his union with Françoise Gilot – Picasso studied them constantly.

The exhibition devotes a series of drawings made by the painter for and with Maya, four years old, in Royan, during the war in 1939. We discover coloring books on which Picasso added characters, still life drawings noted by Maya “10 out of 20”, small animal silhouettes and a puppet theater cut with scissors in paper as well as wooden dolls.

Letters, intimate objects, clothes, slippers and very special relics are presented in a final section, “true family archaeology”, says Diana Widmaier-Picasso. It reveals an unknown facet of Picasso: his superstition and his relationship with death and the world of the invisible.

“To the point of keeping hair and nails cut to protect them from malicious people”, adds the young woman, who has just published a book on the subject entitled “Picasso sorcerer” (Gallimard), co-written with anthropologist Philippe Charlier.


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