Pablo Picasso is arguably one of the greatest artists ever. Art historians and theorists have pored over his works for years, and many have come to the conclusion that Picasso was greatly influenced by the women in his life. Madame Picasso shines a light on Eva Gouel, Picasso’s second mistress and, most likely, his greatest muse.
Very little is known about Eva. According to the novel, she was born to Polish parents and grew up in the suburbs of Paris. Often in frail health, she shocks her conservative parents by running away to the city in order to join the great artistic fervor of the early 20th century. She obtains a position at the famed Moulin Rouge and stumbles into the orbit of Picasso, a virile artist with an established mistress who calls herself Madame Picasso. Unassuming Eva quickly captivates the artist, and after many months of denying their feelings for each other, they break off their respective love affairs to be together. But the path to true love is not smooth; devastating tragedies and life-threatening illnesses threaten to force the couple apart.
Girard is a capable writer who accessed Eva’s letters to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas in order to get a better grip on her character. Eva comes off as overly saintly throughout the novel but is not so saccharine as to annoy the reader. However, Girard’s use of modern lingo throughout the novel may jar some readers from the plot. Despite this deficiency, lovers of Paris and art history will find Madame Picasso an interesting look into a little-known artistic muse.