Picasso's ex-lover lays bare the artist's last great affair

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are thousands of sketches by Pablo Picasso but few that have been cherished for half a century by one of his final, least-known, and most passionate, lovers.

There are thousands of sketches by Pablo Picasso but few that have been cherished for half a century by one of his final, least-known, and most passionate, lovers.

Next week, Géneviève Laporte, 79, will sell 20 drawings by the man who seduced her when she was 24 and he was 70. The sketches, described as "20 love letters" by the Paris auction house that will sell them, demonstrate a tender, smitten side of a man celebrated for his violent and destructive love affairs.

One shows the young Géneviève naked on a bed; another in a maritime jumper; another in a wedding dress. Another, in the cubist style, shows the young and old lovers' faces intertwined. The set is expected to fetch up to ¤2m (£1.3m).

Mme Laporte, who went on to become an award-winning documentary film-maker and a poet, says the popular image of Picasso as a spoiled tyrant is wrong. "He was a tender man, respectful, intelligent, timid," she said. "Not at all the abominable snowman we're used to hearing about."

But she admitted she was probably saved from the more destructive side of Picasso by her decision to "dump" him in 1953, rather than accept his request that she should move in with him in the south of France.

Mme Laporte met Picasso when she interviewed him for her school magazine in 1944 when she was 17.

"Mr Picasso, young people do not understand your paintings," she said. Picasso was furious. "What's that?" he retorted. "Since when do you have to explain the language of painting? Do you understand the language of potato chips?"

Despite that awkward beginning, the painter ­ then 63 ­ and the schoolgirl became platonic friends, discussing art and literature over cups of hot chocolate. The painter later confessed that he had wanted to seduce her but did not dare.

That came seven years later when Géneviève returned from the United States. Picasso was officially in a relationship with another woman, the painter Françoise Gilot. The 70-year-old and the 24-year-old became on-off secret lovers for two years.

As an example of the thoughtful and tender side of Picasso, Mme Laporte relates the history of the sketch called Portrait of the 30th of August. "Picasso wanted to sketch me lying on the bed nude," she said. "Sleep overtook me. By an automatic reflex, I pulled the sheets and covers over me and vanished.

"Poor Picasso lost his model and did not dare to wake me up. He waited patiently for me to open my eyes before he finished the drawing."

Her seduction by Picasso in 1951 was the fault of a thunderstorm, she said. In an interview with the Associated Press, she said: "I said I was going to go home. And at that moment, I swear, it was like in a fairy tale. The room grew dark, and through the skylight I saw a sky like I've never seen before, except in Congo during tropical storms. "He told me, 'Wait a little while, there's going to be a storm', and bada boom: lightning, thunder, hail... I have no memory of what happened next."

Although some Picasso biographers have played down the importance of Géneviève Laporte in the long procession of Picasso's lovers, the painter himself told friends: "She saved my life. She made me laugh."

Mme Laporte wrote some years ago: "I think I was the only profound love he had and certainly the last."

The Spanish Cubist painter and sculptor died in 1973, aged 92. He had four children by three women.

Comments