Lady with a Fan

Pablo Picasso • Painting, 1909, 101×81 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Cubism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1909
Size: 101×81 cm
Artwork in selections: 56 selections
Audio guide

Description of the artwork «Lady with a Fan»

In 1904, Pablo Picasso met his first perennial muse, Fernanda Olivier. She was a tall red-haired beauty, instantly attracting attention and more hothead than ardent young Spaniards. In the future, by the way, Picasso would take mostly low and submissive women as his life partners. Relationship of Pablo and Fernanda lasted seven years. They were stormy, full of jealousy and even violence. But all this only fueled the artist’s inspiration, and he painted his beloved a lot and did it passionately.

Fernanda frequently visited Bateau-Lavoir, a building inhabited by young poor artists, because she earned her living by sitting. Fate was not very supportive to her: she was an illegitimate child, brought up by her mother and uncle, who planned to marry the girl when she grew up. She escaped from the house and married a man who was cruel to her. The girl again had to flee: at the age of 19 she moved to Paris and changed her name so that her husband could not find her. Here she quickly got acquainted with artists and writers and made friends with Guillaume Apollinaire. A few years later, Fernanda met Picasso, and from that time, he claimed the exclusive right to paint her portraits. They never got married, because officially Olivier was still married.

It wasn’t that easy to be Picasso’s muse. Bright and beautiful Fernanda, accustomed to the admiration reflected in the pictures of other artists, hardly understood the style experiments of Picasso. With the beginning of their relationship, the blue period in his work transformed into pink, but gradually the conventionally classical figurative painting began to recede into the background, the shapes in Picasso’s works increasingly simplified, and the proportions were distorted. Fernanda had to put up with the mismatch: on the one hand, she had her own idea of her appearance, on the other were Pablo’s fantasies. She experienced both the African period and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The Lady With a Fan portrait appeared at the time of the next transformation, during the transition to pure Cubism.

Approximately at the same time, the relationship between Fernanda and Pablo began to crumble. In 1907, Olivier took a 13-year-old orphan from the orphanage, but they did not get a full-fledged family, and the girl was sent back. When Picasso tasted the advent of success, he began to lose interest in Fernanda, because she was a living reminder of the difficult times. In 1912, they broke up, and the woman had to change many low-paid jobs in order to feed herself. Twenty years later, Fernanda wrote memoirs about living together with Picasso, which were published in a major Belgian newspaper in 1930, in parts. The artist, who was already at the height of his popularity then, hired lawyers to prevent the publication. As a result, Picasso achieved his goal, and Olivier received major compensation.