Lydia Corbett (née Sylvette David) was born Paris 1934. She grew up in an artistic environment (her English mother being a painter, her father an established dealer in contemporary art), though she received no formal training.
In the 1950s she met Pablo Picasso at Vallauris on the Riviera. Following the artist’s separation from Françoise Gilot, his meeting with Lydia (then still Sylvette) introduced a new phase in his work and she became the model for a cycle of some fifty paintings and drawings (the Sylvette cycle) as well as many ceramics of this period. The ‘heads of Sylvette’, a series of unfolded metal sculptures which Picasso developed at this time, marked the next major innovation in his sculptural work. In 2003 in Picasso et les femmes at the Chemnitz Museum, Germany many of these works were shown in a section of the exhibition devoted to the Sylvette cycle.
For Corbett the starting point of almost every composition is a still life built generally around a central motif of fruit, vegetables, flowers in a vase often set against a landscape which expands to encompass glimpses of buildings and human figures, real or imagined, friends and family members or perhaps characters drawn from mythology, religious sources or her personal taste in fiction. Her work displays a warmth and comfort, a fusion between the crisp, drawn line of Gallic tradition (in some ways reminiscent of Jean Cocteau’s approach), and the harmonious, embracing flow of British watercolour.
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