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by Anne Girard
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Picasso (1881-1973) has the reputation of having had quite a few women in his life. Two of them are in this historical novel, Fernande Olivier (artist model), a complex and wounded woman, married to an abusive husband, and Eva Gouel (1885-1915), or Marcelle Humbert, as she renamed herself when arriving in Paris, fleeing her family and trying to make a living as a seamstress at Le Moulin Rouge. Eva and Pablo ended up loving each other deeply. Working hard at getting her way around a new world for her, learning all about art and business, she became a real support and muse to him. But fate was not tender, and… well, you will have to read it for yourself, but here is why I really enjoyed it a lot.
Madame Picasso is set during the glorious Parisian years before World War I, so rich with poets, painters, artists, singers, actors. Remember the movie Midnight In Paris? That’s exactly that period. You will meet Sarah Bernardt, Mistinguett (unfortunately not as famous in the US as in France), Maurice Chevalier, Apollinaire, Georges Braque, the art dealer Kahnweiler, Ubaldo Oppi, Denain, Kees Van Dongen, Matisse, Max Jacob. Lots of these people know each other through Gertrude Stein’s Salons, where Picasso and Eva went very often and found solace near the free spirited Gertrude and the woman she was living with.
And there are famous historical events in the background as well: the Mona Lisa is stolen, in the circle close to Picasso, the Titanic sinks, WWI begins, Max Jacob converts to Christianity, a big event in the artistic world of the time.
Madame Picasso is also a wonderful book as far as art is concerned, with great reflections on painting, on cubism, on artists trying to be true to themselves even if the evolution of their art seemed to be shocking to many people at the time. Some scenes are described as through the eyes on the painter:
The shadows lengthened on the wall as a slanting ray of first morning sunlight grew red, then mellowed to gold at dawn. It began to shimmer as it crept farther, slowly taking the space over, flooding the room.
Outside Paris, the reader follows Picasso and Eva to places in Southern France where they went for some rest or to escape some difficult situations: Cérert in the Pyrénées, Avignon, Sorgues. It’s really neat that the author even included the passage about the fresco Picasso painted of Eva on a wall. He had that part of the wall removed later when the owner sold the house, and had it moved to Paris, as is well recounted in the novel. They also travel to Barcelona to meet Picasso’s family.
Another great dimension was the portrayal of Picasso’s inner and spiritual evolution, thanks to Eva’s companionship.
Anne Girard did an amazing job at integrating in a very fluid story all her serious research. She met with Lucien Clergue, a French photographer, personal friend of Picasso for almost twenty years. He shared with her lots of anecdotes and personal stories illustrating who Picasso really was.
To see Picasso’s art in relation to the women in his life, I recommend this amazing blog post: The Evolution of Pablo Picasso’s Portraits of Women
VERDICT: On the background of the glorious pre-war years when Paris was blooming with culture and art, Girard offers a very well researched and moving portrait of a relationship between two extraordinary persons, and how they helped each other grow personally, artistically, and spiritually: Pablo Picasso and his muse Eva Gouel. A must for all lovers of history and art in France.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time
When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.
A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life.
With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century. [provided by HFVBT]
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Praise for Madame Picasso
“Early twentieth century Paris and Picasso’s lost love come to enchanted, vivid life in Madame Picasso. With a deft eye for detail and deep understanding for her protagonists, Anne Girard captures the earnest young woman who enthralled the famous artist and became his unsung muse.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of THE QUEEN’S VOW
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne Girard was born with writing in her blood.
The daughter of a hard-driving Chicago newsman,
she has always had the same passion for storytelling
that fueled his lifelong career.
She hand-wrote her first novel
(admittedly, not a very good one) at the age of fourteen,
and never stopped imagining characters and their stories.
Writing only ever took a backseat to her love of reading.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA
and a Master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University,
a chance meeting with the acclaimed author, Irving Stone,
sharply focused her ambition onto telling great stories from history with detailed research.
“Live where your characters lived, see the things they saw,” he said,
“only then can you truly bring them to life for your readers.”
Anne took that advice to heart. After Stone’s encouragement twenty years ago, she sold her first novel.
When she is not traveling the world researching her stories, Anne and her family make their home in Southern California.
When she is not traveling or writing, she is reading fiction.
Anne also writes historical fiction under the name Diane Haeger.
For more information, visit www.dianehaeger.com.
You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Read about behind the book information
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