Picasso's heirs and the mystery of the evil stepmother

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The Independent Online

Two of Pablo Picasso's heiresses are suing an author over her book about the artist's second wife, Jacqueline Picasso.

Marina Picasso, a granddaughter of the Spanish artist, and Catherine Hutin-Blay, her stepsister, are suing the journalist Pepita Dupont and her publisher for allegedly defaming them and their relatives in her book about Jacqueline.

The book, La Vérité sur Jacqueline Picasso (The Truth about Jacqueline Picasso) is Dupont's attempt to rehabilitate the woman who is typically depicted as the wicked stepmother who prevented two of Picasso's four children from attending his funeral.

Dupont and the artist's wife were close friends for the last four years of Jacqueline's life, before her suicide in 1986. Dupont has said that she "wants to put an end to all the lies of which Jacqueline has been a victim".

Contrary to the version painted by Jacqueline's stepchildren, who accused her of confining Picasso to his house, Dupont claims that Jacqueline was "like a sponge. She was extremely sensitive and was greatly hurt by the attitude of Picasso's children, whom she loved as her own."

Picasso and Jacqueline met in 1953 when she was working at a pottery in the French Riviera, where the artist made and painted his ceramics. Picasso created more works of art based on Jacqueline than any of his other loves. In one year alone he painted more than 70 portraits of her.

Dupont says she refrained from publishing anything for many years out of respect for the "magnificent love story" that Jacqueline had lived with Picasso. But increasing abuse of Jacqueline's memory eventually pushed her to write her own version of the truth. "What disgusted me the most was the fact that during the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Musée Picasso her name was not mentioned anywhere, not even in the catalogue. And yet I had seen her shed tears so that this museum could exist. It was her who battled for 12 years to set it up."

The Musée Picasso in Paris has refused to sell the book, reputedly for fear of offending the Picasso family. According to Vincent Roy, a director withthe book's publisher, Le Cherche Midi, this action is scandalous and amounts to censorship. He says there is a "myth" about the artist which his descendants are determined to preserve: "The family believes the 'Picasso Legend' is sealed. No one has the right to tamper with it." He believes the accusation of defamation is "excessive".

Marina Picasso has denounced Dupont's book for alleged defamation of her brother, Pablito Picasso, who committed suicide in 1973. Three other charges of defamation and invasion of privacy are being brought by Catherine Hutin-Blay, a daughter from Jacqueline's first marriage.

The case continues.

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