‘Picasso was never like a real grandfather to us’

As a child, Pablo Picasso's granddaughter Marina often found herself shut out of his sumptuous Cannes villa "La Californie". Four decades after his death, the gates of the house she inherited, along with thousands of his art works, are always promptly opened to visitors.

'Picasso was never like a real grandfather to us'
Pablo Picasso's granddaughter, Marina Picasso, poses with a picture of her father and grandfather in the background (C) in her house in Cannes. Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP

"Living in this house, unconsciously perhaps it's a way of recapturing lost time in a place where we were once excluded," says Marina, who for many years struggled to accept "an inheritance given without love".

To mark the 40th anniversary of Picasso's death this year, Marina has opened up her private collection to help stage an exhibition exploring the recurrence of nudes in the great Spanish artist's work.

"Picasso, Nudity Set Free" features 120 works. Around 90 come from Marina's collection, some of which have never before been on public display.

But Marina, who was in her early twenties when her famous grandfather died, is matter-of-fact about the loan.

"This comes from my inheritance, I don't make anything special of it," she tells AFP with an air of detachment.

Marina and her elder brother Pablito's childhood was punctuated by rare and unhappy visits to see their grandfather, who spent most of his life in France.

These often featured "long waits behind the gate" while "the master" woke up, she says. Picasso's second wife "Jacqueline used to order that we wait; she rejected anything that disturbed him", Marina recalls.

Born in 1950, Marina is the daughter of Paulo Picasso, son of Picasso, and his first wife, Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova.

Marina grew up in poverty despite her illustrious lineage and Paulo, an alcoholic, died in his fifties two years after the artist. "He was always a bit the toy of his father. He was never able to grow up," she says.

As an adult, Marina underwent years of therapy and poured her painful childhood memories into her 2001 memoir "Picasso: My Grandfather".

"At the beginning, I couldn't bear to see his paintings. It took me a lot of time to make the distinction between the artist and the grandfather," she says.

"He was not a real grandfather, or a benevolent father (to Paulo)…"

The legacy of childhood rejection took a terrible toll on Pablito. 

Following Picasso's death at the age of 91 in April 1973, he swallowed bleach after Jacqueline refused him permission to see his grandfather. He died three months later.

According to Marina, "my brother wanted to embrace him for one last time and Jacqueline threw him out".

"He went home and killed himself by drinking bleach."

But if Picasso's grandchildren suffered as a result of their relationship with him, the fate of his muses — bronze busts of whom dot the villa — was equally tragic.

Marie-Therese Walter hanged herself. Jacqueline Picasso shot herself. Dora Maar suffered depression and became something of a recluse. Marina's grandmother Olga died in Cannes in 1955 unvisited by her estranged husband.

"He loved women and used them in order to be creative," she says flatly.

Four decades on, Marina has tried to overcome the bitter legacy of the past.

The Cannes house, long since renamed Pavillon de Flore, has been restored and is now filled with paintings, sculptures and ceramics by Picasso, and other artists.

Funding projects such as an orphanage in Vietnam has also helped the mother-of-five feel she has put her inheritance to good use and she now plans to turn her attention to philanthropic work in France.

With children, she says, it is what happens at the start of their lives that is the most important.

"The more that one can help (when they are) young, the better they will live later," she adds.

"Picasso, Nudity Set Free" runs until October 27 at the Centre d'art La Malmaison at Cannes.

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Banderas wins Cannes ‘best actor’ as Almodovar alter ego

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas has portrayed Zorro and Pablo Picasso but he is above all the go-to actor of Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar, who launched his hugely successful film career in Spain in the early 1980s.

Banderas wins Cannes 'best actor' as Almodovar alter ego
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas holds his Best Actor Prize in Cannes on Sunday. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP
And it was the 58-year-old's nuanced portrayal of Almodovar's alter ego in the director's “Pain & Glory” that won him the best actor award at the Cannes film festival — his first major award.
Sporting Almodovar's spiky hair and colourful clothes, he plays the movie's central character, an ageing Spanish director who is plagued by physical and psychological frailty who revisits childhood memories.
Almodovar, 69, has repeatedly said Banderas gives the “best performance of his life” in the film, which ran in competition for the Palme d'Or top prize. And on accepting his award, Banderas dedicated it Almodovar, who has cast him in eight films and helped make him a global box office draw.
“I respect him, I admire him, I love him, he's my mentor and he's given me so much in my entire life that this award, obviously, has to be dedicated to him,” he said.
After decades in the profession, Banderas said it was “mindblowing” to have won his first major award.
“After 40 years of being a professional actor, I've been nominated for practically everything except the Oscars, and I never got on the stage,” he said, citing four nominations for the Golden Globes and two for an Emmy among a string of others that never ended with an award. 
“So to get up there tonight was not very good news for my cardiologist!” he quipped in a nod to the heart attack he had in 2017 after which he had three operations. 
'There's pain but also glory'
But Almodovar, too, has gone decades without winning the big Cannes.  Over the past 20 years, he has had six films in competition at Cannes but never taken home the Palme d'Or and was conspicuously absent from Saturday night's ceremony, which Banderas said added a note of sadness to his win. 
“I would have loved to have Pedro here, that's the truth, but you know, this is the way this profession goes,” he said, pointing again to the theme at the heart of the film: pain and glory. “There is a lot of sacrifice and there is pain behind being an actor or being an actress, but also there are nights of glory, and this is my night of glory.” 
When Banderas began his acting career he “was a passionate animal who impressed just by his presence”, Almodovar told Spanish film magazine Fotogramas earlier this year.
“But now he has matured (after his health scare) and even though he is full of vitality… I can see in his face the experience of someone who knows that he could be dead”, he said. 
Speaking to Spain's Cadena Ser radio, Banderas said he loved the director because he had made him “reflect on a huge number of things throughout my life”.
Back in 1987, Almodovar got him to play a gay killer in “Law of Desire” at a time when depicting crime in movies “was morally accepted” while two people sharing a same-sex kiss “was spurned as anathema”, he said. 
'A very romantic face'
During the summer of 1980, Banderas said goodbye to his teacher mother and policeman father and boarded a train for Madrid where he wanted to “invent” himself. At the time, he was not quite 20. 
The following year, Banderas, then an actor at the National Theatre in Madrid, was sitting in a cafe when a man approached and said: “You have a very romantic face, you should make movies.”
That man was Almodovar, who went on to give him a small role in his 1982 screwball comedy “Labyrinth of Passion”, which celebrated the hedonistic culture and sexual freedoms that erupted in Madrid following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
Banderas describes Almodovar as “a genius” who is extremely demanding. Under his direction, he played a frustrated torero in the 1988 film “Matador”, a mental patient who kidnaps a porn actress in the 1990's “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” and a psychopathic doctor in 2011's “The Skin I Live In”.
Despite not speaking English, he moved to the United States in the 1990s. His first big success in English was in Jonathan Demme's 1993 film “Philadelphia” in which he played a lover of Tom Hanks' AIDS-infected lawyer.
He also starred alongside Tom Cruise in the 1994 film “Interview With the Vampire” and Anthony Hopkins in “The Mask of Zorro” four years later. He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005.
Own theatre
Banderas's love life has been closely followed by the gossip press which said he divorced a Spanish actress in 1996 to start seeing American filmstar Melanie Griffith whom he met on the set of the 1995 romantic comedy “Too Much”.
The couple, who have one daughter, divorced in 2015 after 19 years of marriage. Since then, Banderas has been seeing Dutch-German actress Nicole Kimpel whom he reportedly met at the Cannes film festival.
Last year, he spent hours in makeup every day to play Picasso in the TV series “Genius”. Like Picasso, Banderas grew up in the southern city of Malaga, where he participates each year in one of its annual Easter processions and where he is very involved in the theatre world with hundreds of students. 
Later this year, he will open a theatre there. 
By AFP's Hazel Ward