PARIS (Reuters) – A lover of Pablo Picasso is selling 20 sketches he gave her more than 50 years ago, showing the tender side of an artist often accused of treating women badly.
“I have a mission — rehabilitating Pablo,” Genevieve Laporte, 79, told Reuters in an interview before the sketches go up for auction in Paris Monday. Auction house Artcurial puts their value at about 2 million euros ($2.44 million).
Laporte has also written a book about her love affair with Picasso and wants to show the world a hidden side of the Spanish artist, often described as “arrogant and scornful” with women.
Laporte and Picasso were lovers when she was in her mid-20s although he was nearly 50 years older than her.
Most of the drawings are of Laporte during a holiday they took in Saint Tropez on France’s Mediterranean coast in 1951.
The secret love affair ended two years later when Laporte refused to move in with Picasso after his partner, artist Francoise Gilot, left him.
Picasso, who died in 1973, was one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. He co-founded Cubism but his prodigious output included realist portraits and sculpture.
The collection of sketches was described as Picasso’s “Tender” or “Genevieve” period by the HermiTage Museum in the Russian city of St. Petersburg when it showed them.
Laporte said she decided to sell the sketches “for my mission” and that it would not have made sense to leave the collection to relatives.
“For my relatives it can’t be the same,” she said. “They can’t have the same relationship I have with these drawings.”
Laporte first met Picasso as a teen-ager, when she interviewed him for her school newspaper in 1944. She had by that time joined the Resistance against Nazi German forces occupying France in World War II and started writing poetry.
“I think we had a special relationship because we both were poets,” she said. “The first time I saw him I thought he was a very kind and lovely man.”
They were friends for several years before their affair began — after Laporte, with Picasso’s help, visited the United States and Britain.
Explaining why the affair did not start immediately, she said: “He was the same age as my grandfather, older than my mother. You see, 17-year-old girls were much less mature in 1944 than they are today.”
Laporte said she had no preferences among the sketches: “They are like a river, where you can’t separate water drops,” she said, hoping they would be kept together by a single buyer.