(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The prolific creative genius of Pablo Picasso the world well knows from his work, but, according to Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, the man behind the work had a dark and destructive side to his personality. In her portrait, Picasso emerges as a cruel and malicious man driven by the compulsive need to dominate others. It was a mark of the irresistible force of his personality that so many were prepared to accept the loss of their dignity in return for the chance to live close to him. Picasso tended to repay loyalty with contempt and abuse, however, and the wreckage he left behind him speaks for itself: Marie-Therese Walter, one of his early mistresses, committed suicide after his death, as did his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, and his grandson Pablito.

The only one of Picasso’s many mistresses who was able to maintain her self-respect around him was Francoise Gilot. After she left him (in spite of his arrogant boast that “nobody leaves a man like me”), Picasso tried as hard as he could to destroy her career. In an extraordinary final episode, he asked her to marry him, but after she had initiated divorce proceedings against her husband, Picasso secretly married Jacqueline Roque. Picasso was no more loyal to his men friends, betraying Guillaume Apollinaire when the latter was accused of theft and failing to use his influence (when he had ample opportunity to do so) to free his friend Max Jacob from a Nazi prison.

It is a damning portrait, although perhaps not entirely a fair one. Huffington gives little insight into why so many people were so fiercely devoted to Picasso, and her tone is less than objective. In addition, art historians may well take issue with her view that Picasso’s work lacks timelessness, that it is merely an expression of the turmoil of the twentieth century.