Marie-Thérèse Walter

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Marie-Thérèse Walter
Born (1909-07-13)13 July 1909
Died 20 October 1977(1977-10-20) (aged 68)
Children Maya Widmaier-Picasso

Marie-Thérèse Walter (13 July 1909 – 20 October 1977) was the French mistress and model of Pablo Picasso from 1927 to about 1935, and the mother of his 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 mistress, artist Dora Maar.

In Picasso's paintings, Walter appears as blonde, sunny, and bright, as in Le Rêve (1932), in contrast to his darker portrayal of Dora Maar, whom Picasso painted as the tortured "weeping woman".


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

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

On 8 January 1927, Marie 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 Russian 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. Marie 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, Marie became pregnant. When Picasso's wife, Olga, was informed by a friend that her husband had a longtime mistress who was expecting a child, she immediately left Picasso and moved to the South of France with their son Paulo. Picasso and Olga never divorced, because Picasso wanted to avoid the even division of property dictated by French law; instead, they lived separately until her death in 1955.

On 5 September 1935, Picasso and Marie's daughter, María de la Concepción, called "Maya", was born. Marie 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).

Marie-Thérèse 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 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. Picasso described it "as one of his choicest memories."[3]

Whereas Picasso portrays Dora in his works of art as dark and in pain, as The Weeping Woman, he painted Marie-Thérèse as just the opposite: blonde and bright.[4]

Later years and death[edit]

In 1940, Marie 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 Marie-Thérèse and Maya financially, but he never married Marie.

On 20 October 1977, four years after Picasso's death, Marie-Thérèse committed suicide at Juan-les-Pins, South of France.[5] 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..[6] Maya's daughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso, is currently working on a catalogue raisonné about her grandfather's sculptures.

Incomplete list of portraits of Marie-Thérèse[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. Furthermore, Australian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby outlined Walter's story and Picasso's abuse of Walter in her 2018 special Nanette. [9]



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

External links[edit]