Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier by Fernande Olivier (Translated by Christine Baker & Michael Raeburn) - review by Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber

Love in Bateau Lavoir

Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier


Harry N Abrams 296pp £24 order from our bookshop

Fernande Olivier – ‘La Belle Fernande’ – was Picasso’s first live-in lover and a hugely important figure in his early Paris period. She lived with him at the Bateau Lavoir from 1905, when he was twenty-three, until 1911. And she kept a diary! This volume, well edited by the Picasso scholar Marilyn McCully, is a patch work of her diary, memoirs and letters, and takes her story up to 1911,when she broke with Picasso. An epilogue by John Richardson describes what happened to her afterwards.
Olivier was born Amélie Lang, father unknown, in June 1881, and records in her journal: ‘I was an unwanted child, born to a young girl and a married man. I was brought up by a family who never accepted me.’ She lived with her uncle, aunt and cousin, but was always a cuckoo in the nest. Her diary begin on her fifteenth birthday, and at first it is fairly standard schoolgirl stuff. But then comes her downfall, and thereafter her narrative is gripping._
At seventeen, she made two tiny mistakes which cast her from petit bourgeois security into the dangerous demi-monde. Her first mistake was to let Helene, one of her uncle’s shopgirls, persuade her to meet an admirer called Paul Percheron. She agreed to have tea with him in the Bois

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