Germaine (née Gargallo) was one of a "trio of easy-going girls... 'models,' they called themselves" (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: Volume I, 1881-1906, New York, 1991, p. 161). Probably of partly Spanish background, Germaine, together with her half-sister Antoinette Fornerod and Louise Lenoir (known as Odette), liked to mix with the young Catalan artists who were flocking to Paris. The painter Carles Casagemas accompanied Picasso on his first trip to Paris in October 1900 and was sharing a studio with him and another artist, Manuel Pallarès, when he met Germaine and fell in love with her. She was already married to an obscure character named Florentin, who appears to have tolerated her affairs. Picasso formed a relationship with Odette, the only girl of the three who did not speak Spanish (Picasso knew very little French); Pallarès was attracted to her as well, but settled for Antoinette. The three couples lived together in a large studio on rue Gabrielle in Montmartre.
Casagemas desperately wanted Germaine to leave her husband so that he could marry her. He was impotent, however, and had a drug habit; Germaine, as much as she liked the attentions of this sensitive young man, would not yield up the security of her marriage. Mad with frustration, Casagemas tried to shoot Germaine in a Paris café while at a dinner with Pallerès, Odette and other friends on the night of 17 February 1901. He missed, but thought he had killed Germaine when she dived to the floor behind Pallarès. Suddenly regretting his foolishness, Casagemas turned the gun on himself and fired. He was rushed by police to a hospital, but died a few hours later.
Picasso was in Madrid when these terrible events transpired, and was deeply affected by his friend's suicide. Although he did not hurry back to Paris or even attend Casagemas' memorial service in Barcelona, Picasso provided a drawing of him for an obituary in a Barcelona art journal. When Picasso finally returned to Paris in May 1901, with the promise from his friend Père Mañach of a show at Vollard's gallery, the artist and his promoter stayed in the apartment where Casagemas had spent his last days. Odette would have liked to resume her relationship with Picasso, but the painter instead took up with Germaine, who since the death of Casagemas had been having an affair with the Catalan sculptor Manolo (Manuel Martínez Hugué). Not even twenty years old at the time and eager to show off his amorous conquests, Picasso took perverse pleasure in the jealousies he sowed amongst those around him, and even satirized events in cartoons he made for a friend. He was to some extent trying to cover up the extreme feelings of guilt he felt over Casagemas' death, which would soon become a major factor in the emergence of his Blue period.
Picasso's affair with Germaine lasted only a short time and there were other girlfriends as well before he became involved with Fernande Olivier in 1904. Germaine remained part of the artist's circle until she went to live with the Catalan painter Ramon Pichot, whom she married in 1906 or 1907. She was widowed in 1925, and Picasso assisted her financially until her death in 1948.