The real star of “Picasso and Marie-Therese: L’Amour Fou” (at Gagosian) is a film cllip lasting no more than five seconds. It’s on a loop. And on it we see the young Marie-Therese of the title. Incandescently blonde, dressed in a vaguely erotic black coat, Marie-There fixes her hair for a minute. The film begins again. We study this Picasso in motion, this woman who is herself with and without him, and see how little and how much the artist “invented” her. In the film clip, we see the emulsions of time on the strip itself, but the woman is alive in a way that is purely herself–observed, and observing. The story is well known: Picasso was in his middle forties, unhappy in an unhappy marriage, when he met the teenaged girl as she came out of the Metro one afternoon, and her life, and Picasso’s, changed forever. Marie-Therese did not know who she was yet, but she was enough of a self for Picasso’s narcissism to know he’d found a living metaphor about female desire, and himself. It was, from the first, less of an affair than an arrangement based on mutual need, and desire, and exploitation. Over the years, Marie-Therese’s Slavic features appeared in work after work, generally disguised as herself. Watching the film clip after taking in the beautiful, still but always visually moving objects Picasso created to commemorate Marie-Therese and, especially, his feelings about her, I was reminded of a woman I knew once, with similar Slavic features, who gave herself to artists who memorialized her short life without knowing they were, at the time.
– May 21, 2011