Art historian Diana Widmaier-Picasso talks about her new book, which keeps her grandfather’s legend alive.
Words by Sophia Charalambous
Diana Widmaier-Picasso grew up with works by her famous grandfather decorating the house.
But she says she was not fully aware of who he was or how famous he had become.
Diana and her brother Olivier hail from the lineage of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who gave birth to their mother, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, 84.
Now Diana has produced a book, Picasso: The Impossible Collection, featuring 100 of her grandfather Pablo Picasso’s defining pieces.
Blessed but humble
There are photographs, sculptures and paintings.
How surreal it must be to belong to such a famous family.
“You feel blessed, fortunate, but you also feel humble and very demanding,” Diana says.
“We were fortunate to grow up with works by him in the house. But I was not fully aware of who he was and how famous he had become.”
The art historian isn’t too forthcoming when speaking about her personal collection of Picasso paintings after being burgled at home a few years ago.
Copier of old masters
She says she keeps the remaining works in a safe. She, however, is a self-proclaimed accomplished painter and loves making copies of old masters.
“Imagine having someone from the Picasso family being a major forger!” she says, giggling.
I ask whether a thing such as art is carried by blood.
“No because Picasso said: ‘bad artists copy, great artists steal’ – so I guess no. I’m a bad one – I’d rather focus on history,” she says.
Diana is the brains behind a number of books and exhibitions on Picasso. But, aged 45, was born the year after Picasso died.
Picasso and women
It was through late art historian John Richardson she uncovered even more enlightening stories about her grandfather.
“He would tease Picasso for his great love either for human beings, particularly for women,” she says.
“I remember him telling me that he [Picasso] once said to his first wife that he had bought a castle outside Paris in 1930.
“But the following day, he said exactly the same thing to my grandmother – that he bought the castle for her!”
Diana, who is mother to a daughter herself, was also able to share previously unseen material of her own mother, Maya, in another recently published book, Picasso And Maya: Father And Daughter.
Child as a mirror
“There were a lot of photographs she had never seen – it’s fascinating to see how an artist can use a child not just as a muse but as a mirror of himself.
“She looked like him a lot except she’s very blonde with green eyes.”
I ask what he might say to her today.
“What he would say to me!?” she exclaims.
“I think he would say keep working, you’re getting there!”
When I ask what she would say to him, Diana’s eyes mist over and she says wistfully: “I miss you but I feel I’m starting to get to know you.
“It’s always difficult to know anyone.”
Diana pats the corners of her eyes.
“In a way, by not knowing him, it allows me to have a clearer inner voice, almost like you’re meeting God or a spiritual voice – I think that’s what it is.
“There is something a little bit divine about the whole situation that I feel. In a way it’s like maybe I’ll meet him in an unexpected way and time.”
Main picture: Pablo Picasso self-portrait 1907. © ALBUM ART RESOURCE, NY 2019 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.
Second picture: DIANA WIDMAIER-PICASSO © GILLES BENSIMON.
Third picture: Pablo Picasso, portrait of MARIE-THÉRÈSE WALTER WITH GARLAND © AKG IMAGES ANDRÉ HELD 2019 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.