Marie-Thérèse Walter

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Marie-Thérèse Walter
Marie-Thérèse Walter at Dinard, Brittany in 1928.jpg
Walter at Dinard, Brittany in 1928
Born(1909-07-13)13 July 1909
Le Perreux, France
Died20 October 1977(1977-10-20) (aged 68)
Partner(s)Pablo Picasso (1927–1935)
ChildrenMaya Widmaier-Picasso

Marie-Thérèse Walter (13 July 1909 – 20 October 1977) was the French model and lover of Pablo Picasso from 1927 to about 1935 and the mother of their daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen years old; he was 45 and still living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. It ended when Picasso moved on to his next relationship, with artist Dora Maar.


Marie-Thérèse Walter was born in Le Perreux, France.

Early years with Picasso (1927–1936)[edit]

On 8 January 1927, Walter first met Picasso in front of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Author Herbert T. Schwartz dates their first meeting back to January 1925 at Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris; whereas author Roy MacGregor-Hastie dates the encounter up to 8 January 1928. At the time, Picasso was married to Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballerina, with whom he had a five-year-old son. He and Walter, then seventeen years old, began a relationship which was kept secret from his wife until 1935. From 1927 onwards, Walter lived close to Picasso's family, who lived in an apartment provided by and next door to his art dealer and friend, Paul Rosenberg, in Rue La Boétie. From 1930, she stayed in a house opposite Picasso's at Rue La Boétie 44.[1]

In July 1930, Picasso bought a castle at Boisgeloup close to Gisors in the Normandie, which he used as a studio for sculptures mainly. Walter was the unseen shadow of the family and became his model and muse for both paintings and sculptures.[2]

Final years with Picasso (1935–1940)[edit]

In 1935, Walter became pregnant. When Picasso's then-wife Olga Khokhlova was informed by a friend that her husband had a longtime relationship with a woman who was expecting a child, she immediately left Picasso and moved to the South of France with their son, Paulo. Picasso and Khokhlova never divorced, although Picasso was intent on it and explored the legal possibilities, Khokhlova was "bitterly opposed to the whole thing";[3] instead she impounded his work until he came to terms eventually paying her a large allowance,[4] they lived separately until her death in 1955.

On 5 September 1935, Picasso and Walter's daughter, María de la Concepción, called "Maya", was born. Walter and Maya stayed with Picasso at Juan-les-Pins in the South of France from 25 March to 14 May 1936, and then at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre, 25 kilometres (16 mi) from Versailles, where Picasso visited on the weekends and some weekdays to play with his daughter. Maya also modeled for some of his paintings, including Maya with Doll (1938).

Walter became jealous when Picasso fell in love with Dora Maar, a surrealist photographer and model for Picasso, in 1935. Once, she and Maar met accidentally in Picasso's studio when he was painting Guernica. Asked about this in later life, Picasso allegedly remarked that he had been quite happy with the situation and that when they demanded that he choose between them, he told them that they would have to fight it out themselves, at which point the two women began to wrestle. The art historian and friend of Picasso, John Richardson, says this story was not true, that both Dora Maar and Picasso told him it never happened and there is no direct evidence that it ever did. More likely the event is imagined from the pictorial representation of Walter and Maar who appear as if in battle at opposite ends of the composition of Guernica.[5]

Whereas Picasso portrays Dora Maar in his works of art as dark and in pain, as The Weeping Woman, he painted Walter as just the opposite, blonde and bright.[6]

Later years and death[edit]

In 1940, Walter and Maya moved to Paris, Boulevard Henri IV no 1, since the house at Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre was occupied during World War II.

Picasso supported Walter and their child financially, but he never married her.

On 20 October 1977, four years after Picasso's death, Walter died by suicide at Juan-les-Pins, South of France.[7] Her daughter Maya had three children. One of Maya's sons, Olivier Widmaier Picasso, published a biography of his famous grandfather entitled Picasso: The Real Family Story.[8] Maya's daughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso, is currently working on a catalogue raisonné of her grandfather's sculptures.

Incomplete list of portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Walter is played by Susannah Harker in the 1996 film Surviving Picasso and by Poppy Delevingne in the 2018 television series Genius, which focuses on the life and art of Pablo Picasso.


  1. ^, "Picasso: The Women Behind the Artist"
  2. ^ Laster, Paul (16 April 2011). "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter: Art's Greatest Love Affair at Gagosian Gallery". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  3. ^ O'Brian, Patrick, Picasso, Collins, 1989, p. 299
  4. ^ O'Brian, Patrick, Picasso, Collins, 1989, p. 300
  5. ^ Richardson, John, Picasso, Magic Sex and Death, Channel 4, 2001
  6. ^ Sothebys, Simon Shaw, "Reign of the Blonde Muse: An Interview with Diana Widmaier-Picasso", 17 Oct 2012
  7. ^ Cotter, Holland (23 October 2008). "Picasso in Lust and Ambition". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Riding, Alan (9 December 2004). "A Grandson Casts A Kind Eye On Picasso". The New York Times.
  9. ^ John Richardson (2007). A Life of Picasso: The triumphant years, 1917–1932. Jonathan Cape. p. 446. ISBN 978-0-224-03121-9.
  10. ^ Brown, Mark (2 July 2020). "Unseen Picasso portrait of lover and muse to appear at auction". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  11. ^ Richard Dormant (8 May 2012). "Picasso, The Vollard Suite, British Museum, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 May 2012.


  • Picasso, Olivier Widmaier. PICASSO: The Real Family Story. Prestel Publ. 2004. 320 p. ISBN 3-7913-3149-3 (biography)

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