Pablo Picasso is a name well known across the world for his experimentation with art and development of cubism, but he didn’t do so alone, or ethically. Behind his work is heavy influences from African cultures and artists as well as his muses. Despite this, Picasso denied African influences and often mistreated the women that he based his paintings off of.
Over the course of his career Picasso was involved with several women of which six were mistresses that he cheated on his wives with. Many of these women were much younger than him, such as 17 year old Marie-Therese Walter who was his mistress when he was 45, and 21 year old Francoise Gilot who was his mistress when he was 61. Additionally, two of Picasso’s muses committed suicide and another had a breakdown causing her to be moved to a private clinic. Beyond the time he spent with these women, he also attempted to prevent two of them, Gilot and Fernande Olivier, from publishing memoirs about their relationships after they had ended and also cut off the artistic career of Gilot after their relationship deteriorated.
Picasso also took heavy inspiration from African art, and those inspirations do not tend to get the credit that they deserve. One of these was Baya Madieddine, an Algerian self taught artist who made art based on her own life and experiences and which inspired works of Picasso such as his Women of Algeria series. Beyond Madieddine, other works of Picasso were influenced by African art such as masks made by the Dan tribe of the Ivory Coast and the Pende people which resemble faces in Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon. While Picasso did initially acknowledge his visit to the Trocadero Museum and introduction to African art as important to his artistic journey, he later denied that African art had inspired his art and explained his art style influences as Iberian instead of African.
Although Picasso is a respected figure in the art world for his creativity and exploration of cubism, he was a problematic person, both towards the women in his life as well as the culture that he drew so much inspiration from.