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Lydia Corbett at home in South Brent
A model painting
By Jo Loosemore
Fifty years after being a model for Picasso, Lydia Corbett from South Devon is making her own mark in the arts world.
Sylvette David was a model. Lydia Corbett is an artist. They are one and the same.
Lydia Corbett is a local artist from Exeter, yet her artistic career began in France with the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.
In the 1950s, Sylvette David unexpectedly sat as a model for Picasso and became the Girl with A Ponytail.
Lydia (Sylvette) with Picasso.Pic: Carol Ballenger
Picasso had spotted her amongst a group of young people living in and around the French pottery town of Valories.
He painted her from a distance and he approached her with the painting. Within weeks, she became his model. She was 19 and he was 73.
During the summer of 1954, Sylvette posed for the artist and became the inspiration for many of his paintings during this period.
"I was a very shy girl at the time, " she explained. "But I was the Girl With the Ponytail. He was experimenting with light and shade with my portraits. They were very solid like sculptures. Very dark lines. Sketchy in a way."
Selling one of his paintings, Sylvette moved to Paris and was never to see Picasso again.
It was not until she was 45 that she began to paint. As the daughter of an impressionistic painter and the model of a cubist, it took some years to find an individual style.
Lydia's paintings show a child-like freedom
"My mother was a great artist but she was an impressionist and painted very properly, but I could never paint properly."
Now, painting from her studio in South Brent, her work is colourful and na´ve. She celebrates a child-like freedom in her work and one that abandons conventional scale and perspective.
The subjects are diverse but serious – motherhood, nature, religion and philosophy. Her figures are skilfully interwoven with the sources of still life, but the result is harmonious.
"All my life, I've painted in my head, but it's from the heart. Not intellectual. Spontaneous."
Lydia has exhibited her paintings and ceramics locally through Nine Days of Art, at Birdwood House, Totnes and the Red House, Exeter.
last updated: 10/04/2008 at 16:01