The only artist to twist women around as much as Cindy Sherman is Pablo Picasso. Moreover, Picasso never twisted any woman better than he did Marie-Thérèse Walter, the 17-year-old dishwater blonde he met outside a Paris department store at 6 p.m. on January 8, 1927, when he was 45. Picasso used (to my ear) the greatest pickup line of all time: “We will do great things together. I am Picasso.” Never mind that she had no idea who he was; within three days they were lovers.
“Picasso’s Marie-Thérèse,” at Acquavella, could have been titled “The Year of Living Sexually.” In 1932, Picasso’s art became lusher than ever, more florid, curving, sultry, and enamored. Walter is recognizable by a shock of blonde hair, her Spartan nose, and violet-and-lavender skin. Often we see her sleeping, her head thrown back in postcoital stupor, cheeks flushed, body supple. In The Dream her face turns into a phallus. In Repose, she is woman as alien: Limbs are splayed and twisted, hair becomes spiny needles, a tiny orifice sits at dead center. Establishment types say that Picasso was, at this point in his career, running out of gas. Judging by these pictures, I’d say he was just getting going.