What may not be known is the story behind the painting. How did a shy, young 19 year old become the intense subject of Pablo Picasso's artwork for 3 months?
In 1954 Lydia Sylvette David was living in France with her fiancé, Toby. Toby worked local to Picasso's studio and as a result, Sylvette would be visible as she walked by his window to meet her fiancé. Indeed, she had met him as Picaasso has bought some chairs from Toby and the pair had delivered them to his house.
The seed was sown for Picasso. The young lady with the high ponytail became etched in his mind and he drew her from memory. Upon holding this piece of work up for Sylvette and her friends to see, Sylvette took it as an invitation and knocked on Picasso's door, thus beginning 3 months of sittings for the artist.
What developed was a muse, a friendship, a respect but nothing more. Sylvette had no romantic attachment with Picasso and refused to pose in the nude. The most recognisable 'Portait of Sylvette David' was painted on the 2nd May 1954. The impact of the Sylvette collection when released was extroidanary. Sylvette became famous. Young girls throughout Europe began wearing their hair in high ponytails, including an at the time unknown Brigitte Bardot. Sylvette would carry the label of Picasso's young muse for her future years.
Picasso, as ever, moved on to another woman and thus another source of inspiration. It is worth noting that the Sylvette series came at a time of unease for Picasso. He had recently been left by his long term partner and mother of 2 of his children, Gilot. No other woman had ever left him. Sylvette was a young beauty who became a source of interest.
A distraction, albeit brief. The fascination thinned as he began a new relationship with a woman he would later marry.
The piece of art and it's associates therefore leave critics in a state of disagreement. Some see the works as lacking depth and focusing on transient trends, such as the high ponytail whilst others appreciate the response at the time of the exhibition.
Picasso was able to take one subject, a beautiful yet coy woman and create numerous pieces of work in varying styles from tender portraits to harsher sculptures. What cannot be denied is the fascinating story behind the portrait and the eternalness of the image of a girl with blonde hair and a high ponytail.