Lydia Corbett (b. 1934) was just 19 when she was introduced to Pablo Picasso in the small Provence village where she was growing up. This chance encounter was a very important moment for both Picasso and for Lydia, or Sylvette David as she was then known.
Picasso became enamoured by her youthful and radiant beauty and Lydia became the muse to the modernist artist in the... spring of 1953. She spent many months modelling in his studio and Sylvette became the subject of large and important body of work, including more than sixty paintings, drawings and sculptures. These portraits created by Picasso more than 60 years ago, are now worth hundreds of millions of pounds, and are immediately recognisable for their depiction of the pretty teenage girl with the distinctive high ponytail.
As the critic Lucien Berman put it: “She was always more than Sylvette to him, she was the girl who linked classicism to modernity, the girl with her hair held high like a young woman from Antigone”. The “Heads of Sylvette”, a series of painted folded metal sculptures which Picasso developed at this time, marked the next major innovation in his sculptural work.
For Sylvette, not only was her innocent, youthful beauty immortalized, but she would be remembered as a muse of the great artist. Picasso’s work and their relationship would become a constant source of inspiration for her own painting many years later.
Now at the age of 83 and with her eyesight failing, Ms Corbett, continues to produce important work of her own. Her ‘assured and gentle approach to the human figure’, as one critic put it, recalls the work of Marc Chagall.
Despite initially working with watercolours, the artist’s battle with macular degeneration, a condition that reduces or blocks the eye’s central vision, has shifted Corbett’s focus onto larger, oil paintings. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Lydia said 'my eyes are a problem but not really because they make me see in a new way. I get inspiration from my life and that includes Picasso. He has been with me all my life'.