The Reading Club is back, with Fernande Olivier in the spotlight

Last Thursday saw the start of the second season of the Museu Picasso Reading Club. Last year I cam along to the Club as an ordinary member, but this time round I was asked to lead the discussion about the memoir by Fernande Olivier, Recuerdos íntimos.

Being on ‘the other side’ can be difficult, but in this case it was a real pleasure. We were fortunate to have a lively group, keen to get involved and eager to talk about art and literature in a friendly atmosphere.

Talking about Picasso on the basis of Fernande Olivier’s book gives us a chance to see the artist from a very human perspective. But in as well as the personal side, Olivier gives us a portrait of a vitally important period in Picasso’s life and the keys to a fuller understanding of his work and methods. This being so, this, exceptional Reading Club session began in the galleries housing the temporary exhibition “Feasting on Paris. Picasso 1900-1907“, in front of two of the pictures that Fernande Olivier mentions in her memoir.

Beginning of the session in the temporary exhibition rooms

Recuerdos íntimos, along with a number of other first-hand accounts, is one of the basic sources for our day-to-day work at the Museum; we read it time and again, and always find new material to help us understand, explain and love Picasso.

Isabel Cendoya

The reading of Fernande Olivier’s Recuerdos íntimos was the perfect introduction to the new season of the Reading Club in the context of the exhibition “Devouring Paris. Picasso 1900-1907”. Why? Because Fernande Olivier was one of the key personalities during the artist’s early years in Paris, where bohemia, poverty and experimentation were all interwoven in his daily life.

First session of the season with Isabel Cendoya and Jordi Carrión

Olivier wrote without rhetorical flourishes. She tells us of the life to which her beauty condemned her, as a young girl desired by men, raped, married against her will and ill-treated by her husband. She eventually escaped to Paris, where she made a living modelling for artists. Hers is the story of an important figure in art history: the model, who is rarely allowed to express her point of view because she has no voice. She loved a Picasso who was not yet the famous Picasso, and her testimony, as Isabel Cendoya reminds us, is of great historical and human value.

Our next Reading Club book is París no se acaba nunca, by Enrique Vila-Matas, who will be present at the session.

Jordi Carrión

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