Picasso, Paloma (1949—)

views updated

Picasso, Paloma (1949—)

French designer and daughter of Pablo Picasso. Born in Paris, France, on August 19, 1949; second child and only daughter of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973, an artist) and Françoise Gilot (b. 1922, an artist); studied jewelry design and fabrication at a school in Nanterre, France; married Rafael López-Sanchez (a playwright-director, divorced 1999); married Eric Thevennet (a gynecologist), in February 1999.

"As a child, I was so shy some people never heard the sound of my voice," said Paloma Picasso, who successfully emerged from her shell to become a top jewelry designer for the prestigious Tiffany and Company as well as an arbiter of fashion among the international set. Indeed, the docile second child of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot was described as a "perfect girl-child" by her famous father, who had little to do with her or her older brother Claude's upbringing, although he sketched and painted them constantly. Paloma, who spent the first four years of her life at Picasso's villa "La Galloise" in Vallauris, has fond memories of her father, despite their limited time together. She recalls occasionally spending the day sketching beside him, although she was not allowed to touch his brushes or paints. "You can touch with your eyes," he would tell her.

After 1953, when Picasso and Gilot separated, Paloma and Claude went to live in Paris with their mother, although they summered with their father at his new villa near Cannes. This arrangement came to an end in 1961, when Picasso married Jacqueline Roque who forbade her husband to see any of his children. After that, Paloma saw her father only twice, literally bumping into him by chance, once in Paris and a second time on the Riviera.

At 18, Paloma began to make her mark with the beau monde of Paris. Petite (5'2") and slim, with dark hair, enormous brown eyes, and a profile reminiscent of her father's classical drawings, she had an adventurous flair for clothes, many of which she scavenged from Paris' flea markets. (Her appearance at a dinner party wearing a red turban and black dress with shoulder pads, à la Joan Crawford , supposedly inspired fashion designer Yves St. Laurent to create a collection of 1940s revivals.) Paloma set out to become a jewelry designer after a newspaper erroneously credited her with designing some necklaces for a stage production; in reality, she had borrowed the jewelry from the Folies-Bergères. In 1969, after studying jewelry and fabrication at a school in Nanterre, Paloma was commissioned by St. Laurent to design a line of fashion jewelry. As her career was getting under way, she designed furs for Jacques Kaplan and gold jewelry for Zolotas, a Greek firm. She also dabbled in the cinema, appearing in Walerian Borowczyk's Immoral Tales (1974), a film offering four stories concerning sexual obsession. Paloma, as the 17th-century Hungarian countess in the vignette "Erzebet Bathory" (Elizabeth Bathory ), was cited mainly for her magnificent figure and beautiful face. The film won the Prix de l'Age d'Or and was released in the United States in 1976.

Paloma's association with Tiffany was brokered by her long-time friend John Loring, who invited her to design a table setting for the store in 1979. Her "high-style, all-white end-of-summer-fantasy" was so successful that she was offered a five-year contract almost immediately. Her first collection of jewelry, distinguished by its unusual shapes and sizes, as well as by its bold colored stones, was launched in 1980. Some of the bracelets were called "as massive as buildings," and one reporter for The New York Times noted the "billiard-size balls of amethyst, lapis, and tiger eye dotted occasionally with pinhead diamonds." The price tags were also large, ranging from $800 to $43,000. "Nobody else makes jewelry that big that is real jewelry," Paloma said about her innovative use of large stones with gold. Notable among her later creations is the "Love and Kisses" line, consisting of a "XXOO" motif executed in gold or silver, and frequently decorated with diamonds. Fashioned into bracelets, earrings, pendants, and pins, the line has become a classic of modern design.

In 1984, Paloma branched out into perfume, creating a ten-product line bearing her name. "It is a fragrance for a strong woman like myself," she told the New York Post's Rosemary Kent (March 26, 1984). Hoping to make a connection between her jewelry and the perfume, Paloma devoted much of her attention to the product's packaging, creating a crystal flask which serves as "a frame" so that the scent becomes "the jewel." The perfume, selling at $160 an ounce, was launched at a swank "coming-out dinner" held on New York's Upper East Side. She would later introduce a new Eau de Parfum, and a line of silk pastel handbags.

When Pablo Picasso died in 1973, leaving no will, Paloma, along with Claude, and Maya Picasso , Pablo's other child, filed a lawsuit for a share in the estate, estimated at $250 million, inclusive of some 16,000 works of art. Each of the heirs was awarded their choice from the collection, from which Paloma selected a group of dolls on which her father had painted a likeness of her face. Twenty percent of the estate, including works by Matisse, Renoir, and others from Picasso's private collection, went to the French government in lieu of estate taxes. The artwork became the basis of Paris' Musée Picasso, the world's third Picasso museum (the other two being in Barcelona and Antibes). Having celebrated her 15th year with Tiffany in 1995, Paloma continues to turn out exclusive designs for the venerable jewelry house. "I can't predict the future," she said, "but I do know I don't intend to stop designing."


Beggy, Carol, and Beth Carney. "Names and Faces," in The Boston Globe. May 1, 1999.

"Fresh Fragrance from Paloma Picasso," in Soap, Perfumery and Cosmetics. Vol. 69, no. 1. January 1996, p. 7.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1986.

"A Perfect Pair," in Town & Country. Vol. 149, no. 5186. November 1995, p. 114.