Madame Picasso

Madame Picasso

by Anne Girard

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Overview

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Novelist Anne Girard brings to life the mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time  

 

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world. 

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life.  

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460330289
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 08/26/2014
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 182,509
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Anne Girard is a writer and historian with degrees in English literature and clinical psychology. She has spent extensive time in Paris and lives in California with her husband and children.

Read an Excerpt

Paris, France, May 1911

Eva dashed around the corner, whirling by the splashing fountain on the place Pigalle at exactly half past two. Intolerably late now, she clutched the front of her blue plaid dress, hiked it up and sprinted the rest of the way down the busy boulevard de Clichy, in the shadow of the looming red windmill of the Moulin Rouge. People turned to gape at the gamine young woman—ruddy cheeks, wide, desperate blue eyes and mahogany hair blowing back and tangling with the ruby-colored ribbon on the straw hat she held fast to her head with her other hand. Her knickers were showing at her knees, but she didn't care. She would never have another chance like this.

She darted past two glossy horse-drawn carriages vying for space with an electric motorcar, then she turned down the narrow alleyway just between a haberdashery and a patisserie adorned with a crisp pink-and-white awning. Yes, this was the shortcut Sylvette had told her about, but she was slowed by the cobblestones. Too far from the sun to fully dry, the stones were gray and mossy and she nearly slipped twice. Then she splashed through an oily black puddle that sprayed onto her stockings and her black button shoes the moment before she arrived.

"You're late!" a voice boomed at her as she skittered to a halt, her mind whirling in panic.

The middle-aged wardrobe mistress looming before her was ominously tall, framed by the arch of the backstage door behind her. Madame Leautaud's bony, spotted hands were on the broad, corseted hips of her coarse velveteen black dress. Her high lace collar entirely covered her throat, lace cuffs obscured her wrists. Beneath a slate-colored chignon, her large facial features and her expression were marked by open disdain.

Eva's chest was heaving from running, and she could feel her cheeks burn. She had come all the way down the hill from Montmartre and across Pigalle on her own. "Forgive me, ma-dame! Truly, I promise you, I came as quickly as I could!" she sputtered, straining to catch her breath, knowing she looked a fright.

"There can be no simpering excuses here, do you understand? People pay for a show and they expect to see a show, Mademoiselle Humbert. You cannot be the cause of our delay. This is not a particularly good first impression, when there is so much to be seen to just before a performance, I can tell you that much!"

At that precise moment, Eva's roommate, Sylvette, in her flouncy green costume, and thick black stockings, tumbled out into the alleyway beside her. Her face was made up to resemble a doll, with big black eyelashes and overdrawn cherry-red lips. Her hair, the color of tree bark, was done up expertly into a knot on top of her head.

One of the other girls must have told her of the commotion, because Sylvette was holding an open jar of white face powder as she hastened to Eva's rescue.

"It won't happen again, madame," Sylvette eagerly promised, wrapping a sisterly arm across Eva's much smaller, slimmer shoulders.

"Fortunately for you, one of the dancers has torn her petticoat and stockings in rehearsal and, like yourself only a few moments ago, our regular seamstress is nowhere to be found or I would send you on your way without another word. Oh, all of you wide-eyed young things come down here thinking your pretty faces will open doors only until you find something better, or you trap a gentleman of means from the audience to sweep you off your feet, and then I am abandoned."

"I am a hard worker, madame, truly I am, and that will not happen. I have no interest in a man to save me," Eva replied with all of the eager assurance that a petite country girl with massive blue eyes could summon.

Madame Léautaud, however, did not suffer naïveté, ambition or beauty gladly, and her halfhearted protestation fell flat. Sylvette this morning had warned Eva—she could be out on her delicate backside and returned to their small room at la Ruche (so named because the building was shaped like a beehive) before she could conjure what had hit her if she didn't convince the woman of her sincerity. Sylvette had worked here for over a year and she herself was only a chorus girl in two numbers, an anonymous background figure—one who never made it anywhere near the bright lights at the front of the stage.

Three dancers in more lavish costumes than the one Syl-vette wore came through the door then, drawn by their mistress's bark. They were anxious to see a fight. In the charged silence, Eva saw each of them look at her appraisingly, their pretty, painted faces full of condescension. One girl put her hands on her hips as she lifted her eyebrows in a mocking fashion. The other two girls whispered to each other. It brought Eva back swiftly to the cruel Vincennes hometown rivals of her youth—girls for whom she had not been good enough, either. They were one of the many reasons she had needed to escape to the city.

For a moment, Eva could not think. Her heart sank.

If she should lose this chance…

She had risked so much just to leave the city outskirts. Most especially, she had risked her family's disapproval. All she wanted was to make something of her life here in Paris, but so far her ambitions had come to very little. Eva looked away from them as she felt tears pressing hard at the backs of her eyes. She could not risk girls like these seeing her weakness. At the age of twenty-four, she could let no one know that she had yet to fully master her girlish emotions. There was simply too much riding on this one chance, after an unsuccessful year here in Paris, to risk being seen as vulnerable.

"You hope to be a dancer perhaps, like one of them?" Madame Leautaud asked, indicating the other girls with a sharp little nod. "Because it has taken each of them much work and hours of practice to be here, so you would be wasting more of my time, and your own, if that is your intention."

"I am good with mending lace," Eva pressed herself to reply without stuttering.

That was true. Her mother had, in fact, fashioned wonderful creations since Eva was a child. Some of them she had brought with her to France from Poland. As a legacy, Madame Gouel had taught her daughter the small, careful stitches that she could always rely upon to help pay the bills once she had married a nice local man and settled into a predictable life. Or so that had been her parents' hope before their daughter had been lured into Paris just after her twenty-third birthday. This was the first real job opportunity Eva had managed to find, and her money was nearly gone.

Sylvette remained absolutely silent, afraid to endanger her own tenuous standing here by saying a single word more in support. She had given Eva this chance—told her the Moulin Rouge was short a seamstress because, with all of the kicks and pratfalls, the dancers were forever ripping or tearing something. What Eva made of it now in this instant was up to her.

"Very well, I will test you, then," Madame Leautaud deigned with a little sniff. "But only because I am in dire straits. Come now and mend Aurelie's petticoat. Make quick work of it, and bring me the evidence of your work while the others are rehearsing."

"Oui, madame." Eva nodded. She was so grateful that she suddenly felt overwhelmed, but she steadied herself and forced a smile.

"You really are a tiny thing, like a little nymph, aren't you? Not altogether unattractive, I must say. What is your name again?" she asked as a casual afterthought based on what Syl-vette had told her.

"Marcelle. Marcelle Humbert," Eva replied, bravely summoning all of her courage to speak the new Parisian name that she hoped would bring her luck.

Since the day she had arrived alone in the city wearing her oversize cloth coat and her black felt hat, and carrying all of her worldly possessions in an old carpetbag, Eva Gouel had been possessed by a steely determination. She fully meant somehow to conquer Paris, in spite of the unrealistic nature of such a lofty goal. Hopefully, this first job would mark the beginning of something wonderful. After all, Eva thought, stranger things had happened.

Madame Leautaud tipped up her chin, edged by a collar of black lace, turned and walked the few steps back toward the open stage door, beckoning Eva to follow. It was then that she caught her first glimpse of the hidden fantasy—the inside of the famous Moulin Rouge.

The walls beyond the door were painted entirely in black, embellished with gold paint, in flourishes and swirling designs. Red velvet draperies hung heavily, flanking the walls, so that from this distance the place had the appearance of a lovely, exotic cave. It was a strange, seductive world into which Eva was so tentatively about to step and, in that moment, her heart raced with as much excitement as fear.

She tried not to look around too conspicuously as she followed. She was ringing her hands behind her back and her heart was pounding. She was not at all certain how she would steady herself enough to guide a thread through a needle.

Behind the stage, it was a dark and shadowy space even though it was mellowed by the light of day. She smelled the odor of spilled liquor and faded perfume. It was actually a little ominous, she thought, but that made it all the more exciting. As more costumed dancers passed her, coming and going toward the stage, she began to recognize them from the posters that were plastered brightly throughout the city. There was la Mariska the ballet mime, Mado Minty the principal dancer and the beautiful comedienne Louise Balthy, who was both Caroline the Tyrolean Doll and la Négresse. There was Romanus the animal trainer, Monsieur Toul with his comic songs and the troupe of Spanish dancers in their short red bolero jackets and black fringed hats.

Eva had never been sure what she would do if she actually ever saw one of these celebrated performers up close, much less met them. The prospect was frightening and yet thrilling at the same time.

What if Madame Léautaud rejected her now that she had come this close? Would she be forced to return to the city outskirts? No, she would not let that happen. She would not go back to Vincennes. But if she stayed in Paris with no job there would be little else for her. Louis's proposal that they become lovers, and he would therefore take care of her, might become her only option.

Poor Louis. He had been her second friend in Paris. Sylvette had introduced them. Since he was Polish, and her mother was, as well, and they all lived at la Ruche, their friendship had been quickly cemented. The three of them had been inseparable since.

Eva was with Louis earlier that day when she had to sneak away for her interview at the Moulin Rouge. She had made a weak excuse about having forgotten something she needed to do, just before she left him, and dashed around the corner. He was standing there unfastening his portfolio of watercolors outside the door of Vollard's shop barely hearing her for anxiety over a fortuitous meeting of his own. Ambroise Vollard was the famed art dealer just up the hill on the cobble-stoned rue Laffitte and, after months, he had finally agreed to see some of Louis's work.

Louis, whose real name was Lodwicz, had been studying at the Académie Julian, painting in the evenings and selling cartoons to La Vie Parisienne to pay his rent. The fact that his wonderful Impressionist-style watercolors did not sell, but his cartoons did, was a source of frustration to him.

Louis had loaned Eva money and regularly bought her dinner this past year to help see her through financially. She did not want him as a lover but she did not want to let him down, either. Loyalty meant everything to her.

Now, Eva stood before Madame Léautaud in the dressing room behind the stage as she examined the hem Eva had just mended.

"I can't even see the stitches or the rip, your work is so fine," she exclaimed with a mix of admiration and irritated surprise. "You may begin with us this evening. Be back here by six o'clock and not a moment later. And do not be late this time."

"Merci, madame," Eva managed to utter in a voice that possessed only a modest hint of confidence. A group of theater technicians and stagehands walked past, chuckling.

"During the show you will stand in the wings. Sylvette will show you where so you will be out of the way. If one of the performers needs a costume repair you shall only have a moment to mend a hem or reattach a button, cuff or collar. You're not to tarry, do you understand? Our patrons don't pay good money to see torn costumes, but they don't like an interruption in the flow of the acts, either."

Then Madame Leautaud leaned a little nearer. In a low tone, she murmured, "You see, Mademoiselle Balthy, our wonderful comedienne, has put on quite a bit of weight. We can only draw the corset in so tightly, yet she can be relied upon to split her drawers during one of her exaggerated pratfalls." Madame Leautaud bit back a clever smile and winked.

A moment later, Eva was back in the grimy alleyway, feeling the utter thrill of victory for the first time in her life. As she hurried back to the rue Laffitte to catch up with Louis, she thought the sensation she had felt was a little like flying.

Eva took the funicular up the hill and dashed as quickly as she could back to Monsieur Vollard's shop. It had been wonderful to have a Polish confidant in Paris these past months—someone who understood her thoughts and her goals in ways that did not require French words, and she had no wish to endanger that now by abandoning a friend.

Louis was like a brother to her, though she knew he wished it to be more. But they were too alike to be suited for one another. He was reliable and kind, and since she'd been in Paris, Eva needed that far more than romance.

Poor Louis, tall and pale with dust-blue eyes, living in the shadow of Eva's potent dreams. He still had not lost his thick Polish accent. Nor did he long for the sense of city style as she did. He still carefully waxed the ends of his beige mustache, wore a stodgy top hat when he went out, his favorite single-button cutaway jacket and two-tone ankle boots, which had all been fashionable a decade ago.

Still, it was Louis who had created the name Marcelle for her and she would be forever grateful because Marcelle had clearly brought her luck. Over wine at a small country brasserie, Au Lapin Agile, tucked cozily on a little hill in Montmartre, Louis had playfully proclaimed her to be thoroughly Parisian by giving her a name that sounded entirely French.

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Madame Picasso 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
For all lovers of art and history: Picasso (1881-1973) has the reputation of having had quite a few women in his life. Two of them are in this historical novel, Fernande Olivier (artist model), a complex and wounded woman, married to an abusive husband, and Eva Gouel (1885-1915), or Marcelle Humbert, as she renamed herself when arriving in Paris, fleeing her family and trying to make a living as a seamstress at Le Moulin Rouge. Eva and Pablo ended up loving each other deeply. Working hard at getting her way around a new world for her, learning all about art and business, she became a real support and muse to him. But fate was not tender, and… well, you will have to read it for yourself, but here is why I really enjoyed it a lot. Madame Picasso is set during the glorious Parisian years before World War I, so rich with poets, painters, artists, singers, actors. Remember the movie Midnight In Paris? That’s exactly that period. You will meet Sarah Bernardt, Mistinguett (unfortunately not as famous in the US as in France), Maurice Chevalier, Apollinaire, Georges Braque, the art dealer Kahnweiler, Ubaldo Oppi, Denain, Kees Van Dongen, Matisse, Max Jacob. Lots of these people know each other through Gertrude Stein’s Salons, where Picasso and Eva went very often and found solace near the free spirited Gertrude and the woman she was living with. And there are famous historical events in the background as well: the Mona Lisa is stolen, in the circle close to Picasso, the Titanic sinks, WWI begins, Max Jacob converts to Christianity, a big event in the artistic world of the time. Madame Picasso is also a wonderful book as far as art is concerned, with great reflections on painting, on cubism, on artists trying to be true to themselves even if the evolution of their art seemed to be shocking to many people at the time. Some scenes are described as through the eyes on the painter: Outside Paris, the reader follows Picasso and Eva to places in Southern France where they went for some rest or to escape some difficult situations: Cérert in the Pyrénées, Avignon, Sorgues. It’s really neat that the author even included the passage about the fresco Picasso painted of Eva on a wall. He had that part of the wall removed later when the owner sold the house, and had it moved to Paris, as is well recounted in the novel. They also travel to Barcelona to meet Picasso’s family. Another great dimension was the portrayal of Picasso’s inner and spiritual evolution, thanks to Eva’s companionship. Anne Girard did an amazing job at integrating in a very fluid story all her serious research. She met with Lucien Clergue, a French photographer, personal friend of Picasso for almost twenty years. He shared with her lots of anecdotes and personal stories illustrating who Picasso really was. To see Picasso’s art in relation to the women in his life, I recommend this amazing blog post: The Evolution of Pablo Picasso’s Portraits of Women VERDICT: On the background of the glorious pre-war years when Paris was blooming with culture and art, Girard offers a very well researched and moving portrait of a relationship between two extraordinary persons, and how they helped each other grow personally, artistically, and spiritually: Pablo Picasso and his muse Eva Gouel. A must for all lovers of history and art in France.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Simply put, this story is about Eva Gouel who was a French farm girl that moved to Paris pre-WWI. There she became a costume designer at the Moulin Rouge and became Picasso’s greatest love. I admit that I don’t usually follow all the great artists but even I knew who Picasso was. But I know nothing anything about Eva Gouel and was hesitant to read this book. I’m so glad to have read this book. Eva is an amazing woman. I loved the descriptions of her life and seeing how she had doubts on her relationship with Pablo. You can tell that there has been a lot of research done on Eva’s life. This is a wonderful book. It is a must read for everyone. I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.
sneps More than 1 year ago
Beautiful love story between Pablo Picasso and Eva Gouel! This is by far the best Historical fiction novel I have read this year! Anne Girard is a masterful storyteller, weaving in a beautiful storyline where there are blanks in history about the relationship between Eva Gouel and Pablo Picasso. We all know who Pablo Picasso is, his many relationships with women (who often became his muse), and the incredible artwork he created. However, not much is known about the one woman who helped shaped his career, taught him love and forgiveness, and who he never painted a complete portrait of. Even that portrait was never shown to the public, until after his death, which was found amongst many of his own personal belongings. In the early 1900’s, Picasso was working his way up the ladder to become one of the world’s best artists. However, during that time, he was really just starting out and with a few a paintings and a huge dream, he sets off to Paris. Eva is a young girl, pushed by her parents to marry the fellow neighbor. Determined to have a better life and make something of herself, she also sets off to Paris. Eva starts out as a seamstress at the famous Moulin Rouge, where anyone that is important, will show up to see the performances. It is there that Eva meets Picasso. Through a test of their relationship and devotion, both Eva and Picasso set out to create their “Eden”. Anne Girard introduces us to other fantastic artists and poets, who all seem to conjugate at Gertrude Steins home for exquisite parties. It the place to be for artists to talk, debate, and reignite fires for their works. While Eva wasn’t the first Madame Picasso, nor the last, she certainly is the one who left the biggest imprint on his life and art. For the first half of the book, readers will catch a glimpse of their own personal challenges, the start of their relationship, and how they soon become partners, in every way. The second half of the book goes very fast. I kept sensing this impending doom, almost like a Romeo and Juliet sequence of sorts, and I kept finding myself holding my breath! I stayed up well past 3 am, because I had to know the fate of their relationship, and wept at the end of the book. Then, like any other historical fiction fan, I googled Eva Gouel and was shocked to see that so little is known about her, which makes Anne Girard even that much more of a genius and incredible writer! This is a phenomenal book, one that history buffs will devour in a day or two. It’s a book that will stay with you for days afterward, and deserves the attention and merit that books like, Call Me Zelda, Z is for Zelda, and The Paris Wife received. My only request is that someone now write a book about Gertrude Stein and her beloved partner, Alice! If you have time, I highly recommend you visit Anne’s page. She has an excerpt of the book, some background information on an interview she did with a friend of Pablo’s, and other interesting information!
TRFeller More than 1 year ago
This is a novelized treatment of the relationship between Pablo Picasso and Eva Gouel, his mistress from 1911 to 1917. I don’t know much about Picasso and life in Paris during that time period, so I found it interesting, even if it is not my usual thing. Not much is known about Gouel, although the author did have access to her correspondence with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The prose is somewhat clichéd, the dialogue uses too many 21st Century expressions, and the plot could come out of a soap opera. I would recommend only to those interested in Picasso or pre-World War I Paris.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story. Kept my attention. Definitely recommend .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago