Rarely seen Picasso on display at National Gallery
July 12 2012
Picture: National Gallery
This delightful 1901 portrait by Picasso is going on loan to the National Gallery. Bibi la Puree was a famous reprobate in Paris at the turn of the century. From the NG press release:
Bibi la Purée was a picturesque figure in the bohemian circles of Montmartre and the Latin Quarter. A former actor turned vagabond, he was affable and eccentric and survived by shining shoes, stealing umbrellas and drinking absinthe. He occasionally acted as private secretary to the poet Paul Verlaine, who dedicated a sonnet to his friend. Picasso probably met the ragged dandy in the brasseries and seedy bars they both haunted, and would have been fascinated by his elderly, grimacing features. The portrait is brushed in broad, gestural strokes vigorously applied, which capture Bibi’s grin with uncompromising energy. This expressionistic treatment, combined with Picasso’s use of harsh colours, enhances the tramp’s grotesque energy.
The painting has rarely been seen in public. It entered a private French collection in 1939 and has not been lent to any of the major Picasso exhibitions. It has been known in the Picasso literature only by a small black-and-white photograph and the vast majority of Picasso’s admirers will never have seen it ‘in the flesh’. It is on loan to the National Gallery from a private collection.