Picasso Museum pays homage to Fernande Olivier as art history icon beyond Spanish painter's muse

New exhibition reviews life and work of model and her accompaniment in emergence of Cubism

An image from the exhibition 'Fernande Olivier, Pablo Picasso and his friends' at the Picasso Museum
An image from the exhibition 'Fernande Olivier, Pablo Picasso and his friends' at the Picasso Museum / Guillem Roset
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 7, 2024 12:18 PM

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is paying homage to Fernande Olivier with a new exhibition that looks at the life and work of the French artist's model beyond the orbit of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

Curated by Malén Gual, the exhibition is the first in Spain to center on Fernande Olivier, born Amélie Lang, who was known for being one of Pablo Picasso's first romantic partners.

With the exhibition, the museum wants to remember the figure of a woman who has become an icon in the history of art.

Unpublished documents and photographs, audiovisual testimonies and several portraits signed by Fernande Olivier's circle of friends are the main works that make up the exhibition.

Although she accompanied Picasso in the key years of the birth of Cubism, she was also a central figure during the Bohemian period in Montmartre, Paris, and the exhibition wants to show that Olivier was much more than a muse of Picasso.

Emphasis is placed on the texts and documents that trace the life and relationships of Olivier, one of the few female voices experiencing that particular moment in art history alongside Picasso.

"She was a woman who was looking for her place in a world full of difficulties," explained Gual. "We reclaim her role as a memoirist. In 1930 she began to publish her memoirs which French intellectuals described as essential to understand the previous artistic context in the First World War."

Olivier embodies in her writings the life of a woman who fights for her emancipation, while also documenting the life she shared with Picasso.

The texts show the period when Picasso began to stand out in the avant-garde artistic movements, depicting a young man, shy and in love.

Olivier also wrote a series of short stories and poems, still unpublished, that show great sensitivity and a strong intellectual interest.

Speaking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Gual described Amélie Lang as a very intelligent person who suffered a "disastrous" youth.

Between 1904 and 1912, she became an icon in art history when Picasso continuously portrayed her. These portraits were made just when the painter transitioned from the blue to the pink period, and on until the emergence of Cubism. "In [Picasso's] works we see the evolution and birth of 20th century art," Gual summarized.

'Picasso and his friends' opens on Friday and will be available to visit until October 6.