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At the Lapin Agile
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Set in the famous Parisian cabaret, Au Lapin Agile, that still stands in Montmartre today, this painting involves a story about unrequited love, an attempted murder, and suicide that led to Picasso’s Blue Period.

It’s well known that Picasso had a big ego, so it’s no surprise that he has included a likeness of himself as the largest figure in the painting. The commissioner of the painting, Frédé Gérard, sits in the background playing guitar. Frédé owned Au Lapin Agile, where he could be found playing guitar or cello for the bohemian crowd of Montmartre. This bohemian crowd included artists such as Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani and Braque to name a few. Since Picasso’s works weren’t quite as valuable then, this painting was most likely accepted by Gérard for the artist’s tab.

The most dramatic incident associated with the painting features the fashionable woman in red, Germaine Pichot. Picasso met Germaine, who was an art model, during a trip to Paris with his friend Carles Casagemas. Casagemas fell in love with Germaine during the trip and was devastated to find the love unrequited. It didn’t help that he was usually a drunken mess around Germaine and as his obsession grew, his mental health deteriorated. The two Spanish artists, Casagemas and Picasso were close having shared a studio space in Barcelona. Picasso did what any good friend might try, he decided to take his friend back to Spain to Malaga for New Years to distract him. Casagemas however, ended up back in Paris shortly afterwards, this time alone, unable to keep away from Germaine.  

On a February night, Casagemas was at dinner at Cafe de L’Hyppodrome with some friends and Germaine Pichot. Casagemas gave a speech and then aimed a gun at Germaine. Germaine was able to dodge the bullet, which only grazed her head. Casagemas thinking he had killed her, then aimed at himself.

The loss of his friend weighed heavy on Picasso whose subsequent blue mood spilled onto his paintings of the Blue Period. Peculiarly, Picasso started dating Germaine when he returned to Paris. The relationship doesn’t last long as Germaine married another friend of Picasso’s later that decade. Looking rather forlorn and dare I say blue, Picasso stands in the painting next to Germaine, his lover and the cause of his friend’s death. The artist was only 24 when he painted this work, which hung at Au Lapin Agile from 1905 to 1912. Gérard sold it for $20 to a German art dealer. Little did he know, he should have kept the painting because later in 1989, the painting sold for $41 million.

Sources

Sources

  1. “At the Lapin Agile.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed January 8, 2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/486162
  2. Gersh-Nesic, Beth. “Picasso’s Women: Germain Gargallo Florentin Picho.” ThoughtCo. March 8, 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/germaine-gargallo-florentin-pichot-183001
  3. “Inhabitants of the museum: Carles Casagemas, the mysterious friend from youth of Picasso.” El Blog el Museu Picasso del Barcelona. July 24, 2014. http://www.blogmuseupicassobcn.org/2014/07/inhabitants-of-the-museum-car...
  4. Meakin, Anna. “Cafe Au Lapin Agile in Montmartre: Lolo the Ass and the Infamous Art Hoax.” Bonjour Paris, Sept 12, 2011. https://bonjourparis.com/archives/cafe-lapin-agile-montmartre-lolo-infam...
  5. “Picasso, Bruant, Apollinaire, The Others…” Au Lapin Agile. Accessed January 9, 2018. http://www.au-lapin-agile.com/anglais/histo2a.htm

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile is a 1905 painting by Pablo Picasso. The harlequin is a self-portrait of the artist. The woman represents his lover Germaine Pichot, formerly the obsession of Carlos Casagemas, a friend of Picasso who committed suicide in 1901 because of an unreturned love for Pichot. In 1907 Pichot appeared as one of the models in Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Ownership history

Frédéric Gérard (depicted in the painting playing the guitar) commissioned the painting and exhibited it at its namesake Montmartre cabaret, the Au Lapin Agile, from 1905 to 1912.

On November 27, 1989, Walter H. Annenberg bought the painting at auction from the Joan Whitney Payson family for $40.7 million. He gave the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Au Lapin Agile.