Bertolucci Wasn’t the First Man to Abuse a Woman and Call It Art and He Won’t Be the Last
Women," Pablo Picasso once proclaimed, “are machines for suffering.” Throughout his lifetime, he did his best to prove that true. Compulsively unfaithful, Picasso collected models, slept with them, and brutalized them, alternating icy control — he demanded submissiveness in all things, and warned one woman, Francoise Gilot, that as far as he was concerned, women were “either goddesses or doormats” — with horrific physical violence. Picasso pinned Gilot to a bridge railing and threatened to throw her into the river for seeming “ungrateful;” when she tried to leave, he held a lit cigarette to her cheek to brand her. He forced Dora Maar to physically fight Marie-Therese Walter, the mother of his child, for his affections — he stayed in the room throughout the brawl, painting — and beat Maar into unconsciousness himself on at least one occasion.
Yet, even though we know all this about Picasso, his violence is often downplayed or indirectly excused. On MoMA’s Dora Maar page, she is labeled “Picasso’s muse and lover” and “the subject for many of his paintings,” not his victim.