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This story first appeared in the The Hollywood Reporter’s Cannes Daily on May 16.
Picasso muse and painter Lydia Corbett, who was a virtual Brigitte Bardot lookalike back in the 1950s, tells THR that Cannes’ beloved blonde, often done up in a trademark ponytail, stole her ’do.
Corbett, who grew up down the Riviera from Cannes, had caught the eye of Pablo Picasso, whose studio was 10 minutes from Cannes in Vallauris, and become his muse. Photographs of her with the painter subsequently appeared in Paris Match, where they attracted the attention of Bardot’s husband, director Roger Vadim.
“I only had one, brief meeting with Brigitte Bardot, when we passed each other on the promenade at Cannes during the film festival of 1954,” says Corbett. “She was on Vadim’s arm and I was on Picasso’s, and of course we took a long look at each other and the men took a long look at us.”
“The next time I saw her,” continues Corbett, “she was no longer a brunette but had dyed her hair blonde to match mine, keeping the fashionable dark eyelashes. She had adopted the ponytail, but really it wasn’t as stylish as mine. Hers had a more random look and was more flowing. My own ponytail was very high and perhaps especially distinctive, as at that time only very young girls had this kind of hairdo. I developed the idea of the ponytail, in a high coquettish manner, after my father wrote to me from Paris saying he had seen a splendid hairdo sported by an actress in a Paris production of the Greek play Antigone and that this rather mannered style from antiquity would look good on me — so I gave it a go!”
Bardot visited Picasso’s studio, but he didn’t paint her. He did paint Corbett about 40 times, including for his famous “The Girl With the Ponytail,” and his sculpture “The Woman With a Key,” she says, “gives a good impression of how I liked to wear my hair.”
“Most people thought he was drawing the actress Brigitte Bardot,” Picasso’s grandson Olivier Widmaier Picasso told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004, “but in fact he was inspired by [Corbett].”
Though they looked a bit alike, Bardot and Corbett differed in at least one respect. One Picasso portrait of Corbett is called “The Girl Who Said No” — when he lasciviously jumped up and down on his bed, she declined to join him — while Bardot’s appeal was in seeming like the girl who said oui. Corbett “never undressed when she modeled for Picasso,” says Francis Kyle, whose London gallery has a show of Corbett’s own paintings beginning May 17. “He painted one nude of her, but this was entirely out of his imagination, she says. He brought it to show her apologetically one day, perhaps a not very subtle way of suggesting she might change her mind.”
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