Monday - 22 September 2014

From Picasso’s muse to artist in her own right

15 October 2012Written by Ivan Macquisten

Once she was Picasso’s muse, now she is capping her own career of more than 25 years as an artist with a three-week exhibition at The Fosse Gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold.

The name Lydia Corbett may not ring instant bells when one thinks of Picasso, but how about Sylvette, or The Girl with the Ponytail?

Now 77 and living in Devon, Sylvette David, who these days goes by the name Lydia Corbett, was a stunning 19-year-old blonde living in Vallauris in the South of France when she met Pablo Picasso in a chance encounter.

Picasso had commissioned several chairs for his studio from Toby Jellinek, a chair-maker who lived opposite his studio, and when Jellinek delivered them, he brought his fiancée, Sylvette David, with him. As history relates, Picasso was mesmerised by her beauty and innocence and Lydia became one of his famed muses - but not, as with several other muses, one of his lovers.

The Girl with the Ponytail became the inspiration for over 40 paintings and drawings as well as many ceramic and metal sculptures, including The Heads of Sylvette, all created over a period of about three months in 1954.

Brigitte Bardot's Ponytail

Sylvette is also credited with influencing the young Brigitte Bardot to adopt the ponytail as a hairstyle, thereby making it popular with women all over the world.

Picasso would later decline the opportunity to paint Bardot, apparently on the grounds that what she could offer him as a model he had already achieved artistically with Sylvette.

That period with Picasso has inspired a strong undercurrent in Sylvette/Lydia's own work. Since the mid 1980s, she has exhibited all over Britain and Europe and in 2004 conducted a lecture tour and solo exhibition in the United States.

Her latest collection of watercolours and oils, titled The Girl with the Ponytail, which opens at The Fosse Gallery on November 4, shows clear echoes of Sylvette as Picasso saw her, as well as pieces that recall the work of Marc Chagall.

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top