Lloyd Webber shows aspects of Picasso

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The Independent Online

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber yesterday put a Picasso painting - which he bought for more than pounds 18m - on show to the public at the National Gallery.

The painting, from the artist's "blue period", was bought by the composer for pounds 18,045,500 at Sotheby's in New York and is the most expensive painting to have been sold at auction since 1990. He has lent it to the National Gallery for the next six months and for "three to four months" a year until the turn of the millennium.

The painting dates from 1903 and depicts Picasso's friend and fellow artist, Angel Fernandez de Soto, smoking and drinking in a Barcelona cafe. De Soto was described by Picasso as "an amusing wastrel".

A keen collector, Sir Andrew yesterday revealed why he had bought the painting for his Art Foundation and he also hinted at plans to open a collection of work he has bought, which includes Canaletto's Horseguards of the Parade, on which he spent around pounds 10m in 1992, and which is currently on loan to the Tate Gallery.

Sir Andrew said: "The Picasso was part of a jigsaw of which there are a lot of parts missing. Very good pictures don't come up on the market very often and I don't know of any others of this quality to have come up.

"I would like to have all my collection in one place one day but it would take tremendous organisation. In addition, a lot of the pieces have been with me since I was young and I like having them around me."

Sir Andrew also revealed that he had failed to buy the last major Picasso work on sale, Yo Picasso, when it was sold in 1989 for pounds 32m.

Neil MacGregor, director of the National Gallery, was delighted. He said: "It's one of the greatest portraits of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. It's a terribly generous loan."