Femme écrivant–Pablo Picasso
Richardson describes how she inspired the ‘most ecstatically erotic’ works of Picasso’s career (in 2010, a notable example, Femme nue, feuilles et buste, was sold for $106,482,496 at Christie’s in New York).Femme écrivant, however, focuses on an equally important, non-sexual part of their relationship. It depicts Marie-Thérèse — sitting on an ornate chair, pen in hand and with her eyes downturned — in the act of writing a letter.
The setting is the secluded château of Boisgeloup near Gisors, a small village northwest of Paris, which Picasso had bought in 1930. It served as a love nest for the couple, complete with a studio in which he could assure Olga he was working.
‘Picasso is obsessed with depicting his sitters in a state of unconsciousness,’ explains art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso, the granddaughter of Picasso and Marie-Thérèse. ‘Here, he is capturing this intense concentration of a woman who is not only writing but also dreaming. In a way it’s a reverie; a double dream because Picasso is dreaming about Marie-Thérèse who is dreaming about him. We enter an intimacy, and that’s what makes the painting so charged.’
Their affair was cloaked in secrecy, so that the couple wrote to one another prolifically — these letters remain in the Picasso family. ‘He asked me to write to him every day — otherwise, he said, he’d be ill,’ Marie-Thérèse recalled in later life. (Among the lines written by Picasso back to her include, ‘MT, mother of sparkling perfumes pungent with star jasmines… I love you more than I’ll ever be able to love’.)