Photography

Picasso’s Beach Body Captured by Robert Capa

Magda Michalska 23 October 2023 min Read

There is never a wrong time to dream about the summer. Who else would like to dive into the Mediterranean Sea together with a painter who just adored going to the beach? If you too need to breathe some refreshing breeze, feel like going back to the late 1940s just for fun, or just want to look at Picasso’s beach body—keep on reading.

Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso with his companion Françoise Gilot and their son Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos, picasso beach body
Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso, Françoise Gilot and their son Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

These photos are not simple documentation of a family’s day on the beach. They are masterpieces in their own right as they were taken by an ingenious photographer, Robert Capa, who’s probably most famous for his outstanding shots of the Spanish Civil War from 1936. In 1947, he founded in Paris a cooperative Magnum Photos together with Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert, David Seymour, and George Rodger, which was intended to manage work for and by freelance photographers.

Robert Capa, Picasso, Gilot and Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos, picasso beach body
Robert Capa, Picasso, Gilot and Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

Picasso and Gillot met in a restaurant in 1943, when she was 21 and he was 61. Gillot quickly replaced the previous mistress, Dora Maar (of whom you can read here), by the painter’s side. They never married, as Picasso was still legally married to a Russian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, but they had two children, Claude and Paloma.

During the summer of 1948, while on assignment in the South of France, Robert Capa, who had previously met Picasso’s partner Francoise Gilot in Paris, spent time with the couple and their children on the Côte D’Azur. Gilot mentioned that Capa, being a friend, approached the photography sessions informally. These photographs depict Picasso engaged in playful activities on the beach with his son and attentively providing shade for Gilot. Capa’s affectionate portraits reveal a side of Picasso as an unburdened, barefoot father savoring life’s simple joys, a facet of the artist rarely witnessed. Capa’s images not only capture the essence of a great artist but also that of a devoted family man, making them some of the most unforgettable pictures of Picasso ever taken.

Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. In the background the painter's nephew Javier Vilato, 1948, picasso beach body
Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. In the background the painter’s nephew Javier Vilato, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

Françoise Gilot was a painter and art critic herself (she lived up to 101 years!) but some scholars say that her career was terminated because of Picasso. When she left him for being abusive and violent towards her, he influenced all the art dealers he knew to stop them from buying her art.

Robert Capa, Picasso, Gilot and Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos, picasso beach body
Robert Capa, Picasso, Gilot and Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

However, let’s get back to these cheerful moments from before the storm when the couple is still so much in love and they are enjoying a perfect afternoon at the Golfe-Juan, a seaside resort on France’s Côte d’Azur.

Robert Capa, Picasso, Gilot and Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos, picasso beach body
Robert Capa, Picasso playing with Claude, 1948, © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

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