20 AUGUST 1988, Page 24

Picasso's legacy

Sir: It would be quite improper for me to comment on Mrs Huffington's book about Picasso (I am the author of a book about the artist which will be published on 22 September), but I should like to challenge the tone of Paul Johnson's assertion (Books, 9 July): 'His widow shot herself, his eldest child died of alcoholism, poor Marie Therese hanged herself, other mis- tresses died in want, the rest of the family fought.' Picasso's widow often told me and others that she would take her own life at 60. If Paolo had not drunk himself to death he would have killed himself on his motor cycle. Marie-Therese could not live with the thought that Picasso had gone; her daughter Maia (Maya) told me that they exchanged affectionate letters until virtual- ly the day of his death, and Picasso was a very bad correspondent.

I cannot think of a mistress who died in want, other than, perhaps, the extravagant Fernande. Eva Gouel Marcoussis died of cancer but was far from poor. Dora Maar still lives in her old flat and has her house in the South of France; she looked pretty prosperous to me last time I saw her. The Hakone Museum in Japan is full of stuff given to Marie-Therese and sold by Maia to fill a special Picasso Museum. Maybe some of the passing whores died in want but that is a risk of the profession. Gilot has homes in New York, California and France and told me that she was always travelling; she is the ex-mistress who has protested most loudly but does not seem pushed for a franc or two.

Roy MacGregor-Hastie

Osaka Gakuin University, Kishibe Suita Osaka Japan