Picasso’s “sexually charged” nudes are the highlights of a new show at Tate Modern.
The paintings depict the then-married artist’s much younger lover, Marie-Therese Walter, who was 28 years his junior.
The exhibition, focusing on his work from the year 1932, opens as a painting of Picasso’s mistress sold recently for nearly £50 million – the highest auction price for any painting sold in Europe in pounds.
Picasso and Walter’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who was at the exhibition, said that she was “surprised, happy and astonished” by the focus on Walter in recent years.
She said of the £49.8 million sum fetched for the portrait at auction: “People want to rely on works that are important for art history and if you think about history, it’s always going to be Picasso. It’s undeniable.”
Star pieces in the Tate Modern show include The Dream, Nude In A Black Armchair and Nude, Green Leaves And Bust.
Widmaier-Picasso dismissed any notion that Picasso objectified women.
“It’s a respect that he pays to women,” she said.
“This traditional idea of Picasso being kind of a monster has been slightly modified.
“We understand now that he’s using them as a force to move forward… to explore a different medium, including sculpture, print, painting and drawing.”
She added: “He’s making love with all these mediums, not just Marie-Therese.”
Picasso spotted Walter when she was 17.
“A few years earlier he had started drawing a woman who was exactly like her, it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Widmaier-Picasso said.
“He met her and says: ‘You have a very interesting face’. And she did. There was a physical presence, but also something inside her.
“He says: ‘I’m Picasso, an artist, and I’d like to do your portrait.”
She said of the focus on 1932 in the Tate Modern show: “It’s the eve of the Second World War. It’s the eve of a lot of terrible disasters in the world, which is something important to his work.
“Sadly, today we have a similar situation and I think a lot of artists are sensitive to that.”
The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, runs from March 8 to September 9 at Tate Modern.