Picasso’s muse ‘Sylvette’ to speak in Moretonhampstead

Laura White
Laura White

Lydia Sylvette David met Picasso in 1953, in Valluaris in the south of France, when she was just 19. Picasso produced over 40 paintings of her and she is still known as ‘the girl with the pony tail’.

Lydia explains; “Before I actually met Picasso, I had of course heard about him, but not as you may imagine — as a world-famous great painter of all time. No, I was ignorant and in a perpetual dream.

‘I knew him as a local painter who was loved by everyone in the town. He was well respected, loved to go about town saying hello to people and going to bull fights where the crowd was as excited to see him as they were to see the fighting bulls. He was always smiling and laughing.

‘Picasso was friendly and warm from the beginning like the sun. He radiated light and love and fun. He was very sensitive and wouldn’t hurt a fly. I was very relaxed from the first moment with him. He was like a father, not at all the flirtatious type. If he had been I would have run away. If it was Picasso or the King of somewhere — it wouldn’t have mattered, I would have run away, never to come back.

‘My mother was so free, I was never told off. I didn’t know what manners were, I didn’t know about being rude. I was spontaneous and honest to my feelings. If I had been intimidated, if he had frightened me one bit I would have been off like a startled deer.

‘On the contrary, I felt safe. Of course I knew he was a man, and I knew he liked my looks. He sort of tried it on in a jokey fashion, but I never took it seriously and anyway, he was not very tall, I was taller and I saw him from above. Maybe had I been a different girl and more mature it would have been different, but I had Toby and I was faithful to him.

‘Picasso, never really talked long about anything when I saw him. He didn’t really do small talk. I just dreamed along, and didn’t think big thoughts. The only time he opened up to me was in the car, his Hispano Suiza. From my age now I can see things from my memories about that time. I am an artist, and so I understand the artist’s contemplation. We would sit together in silence while he painted and this is where the artist goes — to an inner space, the visionary side of life. Through contemplation one goes into another world, closer to God without knowing it, closer to your own soul. I believe he lived for his work.”

Lydia went on to become an artist in her own right and will be speaking about her life as ‘the girl with the pony tail’ on Wednesday 6th March at 10am at The Union Inn in Moretonhampstead.