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Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier Hardcover – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Fernande Olivier was Picasso's first great love. Happily for us, she had a lively writing style and a keen eye for detail. Illustrated with more than 80 contemporary photographs and paintings, Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier is a compulsively readable account of the quarrels, escapades, pleasures, and privations of the young artist and his circle between 1905 and 1912. The two met when Olivier was working as an artist's model, having escaped a loveless childhood and a disastrous early marriage. This book smoothly melds retranslated material from her 1933 memoir (Picasso et ses amis) with the posthumously published Souvenirs intimes and selections from her correspondence, including her plaintive letters to Alice B. Toklas during a lonely holiday with Picasso in rural Spain.

Honest to the point of bluntness, Olivier--whom Picasso eventually abandoned for Eva Gouel, a younger, more passive friend of hers--sums up her lover as a workaholic, an impulse buyer (when he had cash) of bric-a- brac and good furniture, a contrarian who found charm in wearing peculiar outfits and pretending he had no taste, and a jealous lover who often kept her locked up when he went out. She describes their home, the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, as "a weird, squalid building echoing from morning to night with every kind of noise: discussion, singing, shouting, calling, the sound of buckets used to empty the toilet clattering noisily on the floor ... doors slammed, suggestive moaning coming through the closed doors of the studios."

As Picasso biographer John Richardson relates in an afterword, Olivier never rebounded from her rejection by Picasso. Her middle years were dogged by faithless lovers, financial woes, and Gertrude Stein's deviousness (agreeing to help Olivier publish her memoirs, Stein instead wrote her own version of the era). --Cathy Curtis

From Publishers Weekly

Model and sometime diction teacher Olivier (1881-1966) lived with Picasso for nine years. Their passionate and contentious relationship, begun during his Blue and Rose periods, deteriorated and finally imploded as cubism built up steam. In the late 1920s, after fending for herself for nearly 20 years, the free-spirited and straight-talking Olivier (n‚e Am‚lie Lang) wrote an unsparing, crackling memoir of their high bohemian lives together, serializing it in Le Soir in 1930 and provoking Picasso's fury. It is published here for the first time in English, interspersed among Olivier's copious journal entries, and further supplemented with letters, and with annotations, notes and 82 illustrations (10 in color) selected by Marilyn McCully (Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay). Beginning with journal entries chronicling her whim-based "downfall" and marriage to an abuser at 18, her life as a model in and around the Ecole des Beaux Arts and further venturings, Olivier finally meets (on page 137) "the Spanish painter who lives in our building" ("I don't find him particularly attractive"), who turns out to be Picasso and they immediately take up with each other. Olivier's prosaic proto-postfeminism yields a page-turning perspective on a woman who vigilantly maintained her own identity, even as it was formed in relation to men, including friends from Apollinaire to Max Jacob, and by other famous friends like Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. In an epilogue, distinguished Picasso biographer John Richardson convincingly speculates that this memoir, published complete in French in 1933 but entrusted to Stein for American publication earlier, may have inspired The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. With its charming flaws (some, like reflexive anti-Semitism, less so) and guileless presentation, it's easy to see why. (May)Forecast: Attractively produced and carefully edited, this book will be a serious beach read for the art set and beyond, and its plethora of intrigue will draw in those who flip through it on a display table. Expect sales on the order of The Diary of Frieda Kahlo.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810942518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810942516
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #875,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Loving Picasso is a book that will touch your heart, and my moisten your eyes.
When we visit a museum and see wonderful paintings of striking women, seldom do we think about the conditions under which the art was created. Did the artists and the model have a relationship? If so, what was it? Did they have enough to eat while the work was done? Were they considerate of one another? Was the studio warm or cold? What was the model thinking about as she posed? How had the woman come to model? And so on.
I will never look at another painting or sculpture again of a human model without being filled with such questions, as a result of reaching about the life of Fernande Olivier from her private journal, letters, and memoir as presented in Loving Picasso.
This beautiful, charming woman lived an extremely difficult life. It was so challenging that few could have emerged from such awful circumstances without being distorted in mind and personality. Yet, Ms. Olivier seems to have avoided both, and been a light in the life of her many male admirers, female friends, and an inspiration to Picasso in his most innovative years.
From the book's title, you will think that the material is mostly about the years when Ms. Olivier and Picasso lived together, but that's only about half the book. The book is really an autobiography through the time when the two split up for the final time in 1912.
Readers will be rewarded with many intriguing views of the lives of "starving" artists in Paris, the many distinguished friends of Picasso and Ms. Olivier, and how Picasso changed as he went from an unknown to one of the recognized leaders of avant-garde art along with Matisse.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is the third Picasso and ____ book I've read. There are likely more, but the others I've seen are Picasso and Dora (his mistress in the late forties and Life with Picassoby Francoise Gilot who had his attention in his later years.
This book along with the others read like a three part trilogy - this latest one covering the earliest relationship. The book is very good and seems to be honest. Quite readable.
This book should be on the reading list of anyone interested in probing what the heck Picasso was about. Note that he does not get any less difficult in his relationships!! This book is fantastic to see that Picasso is as childish and monstrous in his early relationships as he is in his later ones!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FRANCIS on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Picasso is argublly the greatest artist of the 20th century, yet the fact that he was a horrible male-schovenist and a nutorius ego-centricist is often neglected by the society.

Women for Picasso were just tubes of paint. When used-up and dried, he simply had to thrown them away. The author had a 7 years affair with Picasso, and acted as his model exclusively, as she was not allowed to model for others after she moved in with Pic. Yet this did not worrant her for any financial support when they separeted. Oliver was left with no money at all and only one small drawing of gauch which at that time would not probably cover her expenses for a month.

Women under Picasso's brush are predominantly ugly, unsignificant, very often depicted as sex-toys, (with sexual organs emphased, for example) and were given little respect. Picasso painted a lot of ugly women during his cubist period, but he never draw his sons the same way. A clear line of distinction was drawn here.

As an artist myself, I always consider that cubism is way over-rated. It is an innovation of course, but come on, there are a lot of innovative artists out there. Picasso was idealised, worshiped simply because he was a humanist with tremendous ego and as such he was in great demand. He was the symbol of his time as well as ours - a man living for his ego and himself and today only. A sad period of time really.

Although this book does not look like an official biography, and definitely does not look like a journal (as most of the original journal were lost )written by Fernande Oliver, it told a lot of touching stories about the writer Oliver nonetheless, and her relation with Pic. The first 100 pages were not about Picasso, but about Oliver's life.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is about Fernande Olivier, Picasso's lover during his formative years as an artist. It's about a relationship based on control -- Picasso won't let Fernande have shoes so she won't be able to leave the house. This book is extremely interesting but you can't help being astonished by how naive and foolish Fernande is.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel on July 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
loved it from the perspective of his first lover, I couldn't help but feel as though many pages were left out by Fernande. But it still helped explain the Psychology of Picasso.
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