Olga Stepanovna Khokhlova was born on 17 June 1891 into the family of a Russian army colonel in Nizhyn town. She wanted to become a ballerina since the moment she visited France and saw a performance by Madame Shroessont. Later Olga joined the famous Sergei Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes” as a dancer.
On 18 May 1917 she danced at the premiere of the ballet Parade in Shatle Theatre. The ballet was staged by Sergei Diaghilev, Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, whereas Pablo Picasso was in charge of the costumes and scenery. Soon after they met, the company set off for tour in South America, but Olga went to Barcelona with Picasso. The artist introduced her to his family. Initially his mother was worried about her son’s choice of marrying a foreign girl, and so the artist painted Khokhlova’s portrait in a Spanish costume specially for his mother. Later they returned to Paris and started living together in a house in Rue La Boétie Street.
In July 1919 they went to London for the new premiere of the Ballets Russes – ballet The Cocked Hat (Sp. «El Sombrero de tres Picos», Fr. «Le Tricorne»), for which Picasso again created costumes and scenery. The ballet was also performed in Alhambra, Spain and was a great success in Paris Opera in 1919. The couple was happy in their marriage and often took part in public events.
On 4 February 1921 Olga gave birth to their son Paulo. From 1926 relations of the spouses experienced precipitous decline. In 1927 Picasso started dating the 17-year old French girl Marie-Thérèse Walter. In 1935 Olga learnt about her husband’s affair and also that Marie-Thérèse was pregnant. She immediately went with her son Paulo to the south of France and at once filed for divorce. Picasso rejected to halve their belongings as the French law requires, and so Olga remained his official wife till the end of her life. She died of cancer in Cannes in 1955.
In 1990 their granddaughter Marina Picasso founded an orphanage in Thu Duc (former military base in Vietnam). The orphanage was called “The Village of Youth” and was financed from the money that Marina inherited from her famous grandfather Pablo Picasso. The foundation also organized digging of wells in the interior of the country, sending milk to orphanages and hospitals and subsidizing agriculture.
See also: Olga Khokhlova, Picasso’s wife
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