Fernande Olivier


Side profile of a young woman.

Pablo Picasso
b. 1881 Malaga, Spain; d. 1973 Mougins, France
Fernande Olivier, 1906
Charcoal on paper
24 x 17 5/8 inches
Accession date: 1989
The Dr. and Mrs. John J. Mayers Collection
© 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1904, Pablo Picasso met Fernande Olivier, who became his first mistress and served as the inspiration for much of his work during their 7-year relationship. Picasso had a great passion for art and women; it is estimated he created approximately 50,000 works of art during his lengthy career and Fernade was the first of numerous mistresses. This portrait of her reveals Picasso’s love of drawing, a medium he continued to exploit for its expressionist possibilities his entire life. While rendering his love in a moderate number of charcoal lines, he fully expresses an overwhelmingly a sense of naturalism, exoticism and sensuality. Picasso and Fernande were together for seven years during which Picasso’s work developed rapidly. It was in 1906, that the 24-year-old artist began his study for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – the painting credited with initiating Picasso’s revolutionary Cubist style.

A painter, printmaker and ceramicist, who revolutionized western art, Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881. He settled in Paris in 1904 and became a driving force in the avant-garde Parisian art community. Within the context of this highly creative environment and with the constant threat of war and social uprising, Picasso experimented with a variety of different media that ultimately led to his groundbreaking collage paintings, graphic work and sculptures. His artistic output was practically all dedicated to the depiction of the human form, which he explored in detail at all stages of his prolific career and in diverse styles from realism to abstract figures in exaggerated distortions. Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91, creating nearly to the very end.