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Picasso Muse Says He Wasn’t A Misogynist And They Didn’t Have Affair

When I sat with Picasso I was in another world. 

Pablo Picasso’s former muse says he wasn’t a misogynist and she didn’t have an affair with him – but did pose topless.

Sylvette David, 88, also known as Lydia Corbett, posed for the renowned Spanish artist in more than 73 of his paintings – notably ‘The Girl With The Pony Tail.’

Dubbed ‘The 20th Century Mona Lisa’ Sylvette met Picasso aged 19 in 1954 in the coastal town of Vallauris, France, when the artist was in his 70s.

She has dismissed the artist’s reputation as a misogynist saying women who made the allegations ”had problems, jealousies.”

Despite suggestions that he fell in love with her, she says they were never in a relationship.

Sylvette, of Totnes, England, said she ‘thought nothing’ of once posing for him topless – but admitted he had once led her to his bedroom.

Sylvette David, 88, also known as Lydia Corbett, posed for the renowned Spanish artist in more than 73 of his paintings – notably ‘The Girl With The Pony Tail.’ PHOTO BY TOM WREN/SWNS  

She said: “He wanted me to sit on the bed and play like a child, but I didn’t.”

Picasso had reputedly once said that “women are either goddesses or doormats” – and was known for a string of affairs which often ended in tragedy.

Four of his muses died in tragic circumstances; two had mental breakdowns and two committed suicide.

But artist Sylvette says she is skeptical about how the artist’s life is portrayed.

Recalling a conversation she had with him inside his car, she said: “He talked about his past, the people he loved, the war and The Old Guitarist (painting).

“Nothing happened there, he didn’t touch me at all.

“He inspired me all my life. I learned to be free. When I sat with Picasso I was in another world.

“I never believed all that – they (the women) had problems, jealousies.”

Sylvette David, also known as Lydia Corbett, in her studio in Devon. 2023. Dubbed ‘The 20th Century Mona Lisa’ Sylvette met Picasso aged 19 in 1954 in the coastal town of Vallauris, France, when the artist was in his 70s. PHOTO BY TOM WREN/SWNS

Also a painter like her mentor, Sylvette says she considers the artist to be a father-like figure in her life.

Amusingly, she admits she did not understand every word he said, adding: “he had a strong Spanish accent.

“He is still here with me in my work. He is very close to me.”

She added: “Sylvette David is my maiden name. My married name is Corbett…and Lydia is from a spiritual wise man I met in the ‘60s.”

The walls of her house are covered with paintings, mostly her own and a few Picasso prints.

But there are no original works – Picasso once gifted her a portrait of hers but she no longer has it.

Born in Paris to an English mother and a French father, Sylvette spent the war years in the Gallic country as a child.

She later attended the famous Summer Hill school in Suffolk, where she was told that she could do whatever she liked.

Like her former mentor, Sylvette works in different mediums, including clay and ceramics.

But painting in acrylic and oil (especially with a palette knife) is still her preferred medium.

“I love charcoal too because it’s full of feeling,” she adds.

Sylvette is the subject of a new book about her career and her time with Picasso.

Written by art critic Lucien Berman, ‘Sylvette David/Lydia Corbett, Ceramics, Painter and Sculptor in Clay,’ the book explores her career and Picasso’s pervading influence over her.

Berman says Sylvette is the only woman along with Françoise Gilot who survived as artists in their own right “the intense regard, the fierce genius and passion that was Pablo Picasso.”

Sylvette David/Lydia Corbett and Lucien Berman will be attending the book launch at Dartington’s Great Hall in Devon, UK, on September 15 at 7.30 p.m.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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