Huddled Masses

My apologies to Emma Lazarus for swiping a phrase from her famous poem “The New Colossus” as the title for this blog post. Inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the “huddled masses” to which Lazarus is referring are emigrants “yearning to breathe free”, coming to America in search of a better life. I have co-opted the phrase to describe a particular aspect of the freezing cold winter weather that has descended upon much of the country. 16 degrees in NYC today. It’s cold, man. It’s freaking cold! 😮

A great deal of winter themed paintings depict the stark, elegant beauty of the season. Sometimes desolate and bleak, other times graceful and serene, winter conditions really do provide a diversity of moods and images for the artist. The most popular ones are usually snow-covered landscapes, mountain villages, frozen lakes, alpine passes, and leafless trees standing bare against grim grey skies. Winter in the context of nature is extraordinarily beautiful, and even an avowed summer person like myself can admit to it. If you’ve ever trekked through the woods on a winter day you’ve surely been entranced by the quiet, spiritual, almost mystical energy it holds – animal tracks in the snow, an icy stream, a little forest creature scurrying into a hidden hole for shelter.

Winter in the context of cities, or any setting in which everyday people are depicted, introduces a different element of the cold weather existence: less of the spiritual natural beauty thing, more of the hardships and discomforts that the cold weather inflicts. Freezing temperatures or not, people still have things to do and places to go. Life goes on, in spite of ice-covered railroad tracks, water main breaks, layers of sweaters, and high heating bills. Heck, mankind has been coping with the cold since the beginning of time. Though much has changed in terms of our conveniences, our human instincts to survive, seek warmth, and press on with our lives remains the same. Here are a few works that help to illustrate my version of the “huddled masses”.

John Sloan’s Six O’Clock, Winter is a striking example of New York City and its commuting hoards, crowded beneath the Third Avenue el, an intense winter sky overhead:

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Good old New York City again, this time by Childe Hassam. From 1919,  Fifth Avenue in Winter:

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One more from Hassam, a wonderful scene and composition done very effectively, Cab Stand at Night, Madison Square, New York, 1891:

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In this work, Carl Larsson shows us that a winter-themed scene can also be an interior. You get the feeling that these folks are relieved, temporarily, to be indoors in the warmth. Does anyone else find that their eye goes to the kid in the lower right with black fur hat? Peasant Interior in Winter, 1890:

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To many of us, winter’s cold is a reminder to consider those less fortunate. Soup kitchens, food pantries and the like ask for more donations during the winter months to provide basic needs for the poor or homeless. Every year I give a coat to the New York Cares Coat Drive. By Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller, this is Children of poor parents get winter clothes from the community on Spittelberg on Saint Michael Day, 1857:

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Jose Clemente Orozco was a Mexican social realist painter. All he needed to do here was exaggerate the bulky thickness of the mens’ coats and suggest rigid shoulders to communicate a cold winter day. This is Winter from 1932:

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In The Snowstorm, the great Goya depicts a wandering group braving a bitter snowstorm. You can feel the windchill in the gestures of the figures and the heads turned down. Because of Goya’s brilliance and sensitivity, the travelers are given an air of heroism as they tread along determinedly in the face of brutal cold.

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We conclude with Edvard Munch’s Workers in the Snow. Our New York forecast has snow for later today. If it comes I may hire these guys to shovel my driveway 🙂

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Joy in the Public Square

When the whole “flash mob” craze started a few years ago I didn’t know what to make of it. Granted, I wasn’t paying all that much attention. I just formed a vague impression that it was little more than stupid hipster/hacker/Internet-fueled/self-indulgent “performance art”/attention-seeking silliness that disrupted the public square for no worthwhile purpose. Ok, so maybe I was a little dismissive 😆 But also, I’m generally wary of the word “mob” and its implications.

While I still believe the flash mob fad is just that – a fad – I have found that these spontaneous public outbursts can be pretty special when they involve music. Not rap. Not techno. I mean glorious music that stirs the soul. I spend half my life traveling around on New York City’s transit system and am very accustomed to public music performances, many of which I enjoy, others not so much. But I would absolutely welcome a flash mob appearing out of nowhere to perform, say, Beethoven, on one of my crazy commuting days. You all know how I feel about Beethoven, right? Obsession, folks. Obsession.

Our dear family friend Karla passed along a link to the Top 6 Orchestra Flashmobs Around the World. I was already familiar with one of them, a video that has been viewed on YouTube over 9 million times. It takes place in a public square in Sabadell, Spain, near Barcelona, when members of various professional orchestras and choirs gathered flash mob style to perform, at the end of the day, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Obviously there was some degree of planning that went into this on the part of Banco Sabadell so I don’t know if it fully qualifies as a “flash mob”, but whatever. The children are truly the shining stars of this video. Well, after Beethoven of course 😉 Our Music Monday, friends. Enjoy!

Nocturne

Nocturne, by Archibald MacLeish

The earth, still heavy and warm with afternoon,
Dazed by the moon:

The earth, tormented with the moon’s light,
Wandering in the night:

La, La, The moon is a lovely thing to see-
The moon is an agony.

Full moon, moon rise, the old old pain
Of brightness in dilated eyes,

The ache of still
Elbows leaning on the narrow sill,

Of motionless cold hands upon the wet
Marble of the parapet,

Of open eyelids of a child behind
The crooked glimmer of the windown blind,

Of sliding faint remindful squares
Across the lamplight of the rocking chairs:

Why do we stand so late
Stiff fingers on the moonlit gate?

Why do we stand
To watch so long the fall of moonlight on the sand?

What is it we cannot recall?

Tormented by the moon’s light
The earth turns maundering through the night.

Big Thumb. Beach. Moon and Decaying Bird, Salvador Dali, 1928:

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Tale of the Traveling Canvas

Three days prior to Christmas, before I embarked on an afternoon of last minute shopping, I stopped in for a lovely gallery visit at the invitation of my dear friend Janet Cook. Janet had two gorgeous lithographs on view at the Alex Adam Gallery on W. 120th Street in Harlem’s historic Morris Park district. Other works included various prints, oil paintings, and  drawings by artists I have known and admired for years, among them Donna Skebo, Benat Iglesias Lopez, Tai Lin, and Eleanor Adam, whose son was the inspiration for the gallery’s founding. He died of cancer at the age of 23. The Alex Adam is located in a wonderful old brownstone. It consists of artists’ studio spaces with a shared exhibition area upon entering the building. That day it was adorned with a festive Christmas tree:

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At one point Janet informed me that there was a painting of me on the premises but not on display. Intrigued, I went to check it out. So I walked downstairs to Eleanor Adam’s studio area and, lo and behold, a huge canvas painted by Alex Cox, my old pal from the National Academy, was leaning against the wall, amid paper plates, cups, and art supplies. I remembered that painting well. It was created in Mary Beth McKenzie‘s class at the Academy around five years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me at the gallery, so I had to take a Blackberry pic which doesn’t do it justice:

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A bit of a story surrounds this painting. It became a model “double” purely by accident. Both Peter and I had showed up on the first day of class, expecting to pose. After some confusion, we learned that the school had double booked us by mistake. So since it wouldn’t have been fair to send one of us home, and cause one model to subsequently lose a ten-day booking, the class got to have two models for their composition. Everyone was thrilled and more than willing to take on the challenge. Then, as I was undressing, the class monitors took note of my black slip and asked if I would pose in it. I was happy to oblige.

Alex’s painting was later accepted into the year-end student show at the National Academy, where it attracted a lot of attention. I asked Alex if he would send me a photo of the painting so I could post it on the then-newly launched Museworthy. I wanted to use it for a discussion of modeling in doubles. Alex assured me he’d send it. “I promise, Claudia. I’ll send you a picture”. And of course, he forgot!  Within a year Alex had disappeared, to where I wasn’t sure. Probably the Art Students League 😆 But this painting was in storage at the Academy. I used to pass by it all the time and was tempted to pull it out of its slot and take a picture myself. But I didn’t.

Eventually, the painting disappeared, Alex was still MIA, and I forgot about the whole thing. Fast forward to the Alex Adam Gallery, where this painting, long lost in an unaccounted for, migratory mystery, is leaning there against the wall. We meet again old friend! Now the story as I understand it is that the painting was in a studio space, and then another studio space that Alex was sharing with another artist, I think. Word got around that the studio was being vacated. Eleanor found out that this painting was available for anyone to just take away, so she did. And the model comes face to face with it  purely by chance. I’m glad Eleanor rescued it from an uncertain fate.

In conclusion, Alex Cox is gallivanting around Italy with his new bride, the Alex Adam is a thoroughly charming and inspiring venue of art in upper Manhattan, and I am still a full time artist’s model, immortalized on canvases throughout the city – on walls, in studios, in basements, attics, second hand stores, sometimes forgotten, sometimes reemerged to see another day 🙂

Beneath the Raven Moon

Today is a special day. January 7th. That makes it a very special Music Monday here on Museworthy.

For my darling on his birthday, this is Native American flutist Mary Youngblood playing her beautiful touching song, “Beneath the Raven Moon”.

Happy Birthday baby, my raven protector. I love you with all my heart. Mary plays the melody, but the sweetness and tenderness are from me to you 🙂

Always,
your “little C”

De-Cocooning

So now that 2013 has arrived and the “holiday season” as we call it is officially over, my heavenly homey existence of cocooned contentment is also, sadly, over. You’re all wondering, “What the hell is she talking about?” 😆 I’m referring to the manner in which I spent my holiday break. It involved staying in Queens and avoiding going into Manhattan, wallowing in the cozy warmth and intimate charm of my house, sleeping late, cooking, writing, wearing sweatpants, taking indulgently long showers, poring over the magnificent art book I got for Christmas, and rarely venturing beyond my neighborhood in northeast Queens. It’s not as if I lived like a lonely hermit, mind you. I spoke to my family every day and, best of all, enjoyed the beautiful companionship of the man I love. It was all quite glorious.

But alas, the art model’s layabout paradise cannot go on forever. Art schools are opening for the spring term and I must crawl out of my snug cocoon and return to work, like most folks already have. The actual modeling, of course, is something I look forward to and have genuinely missed. What I haven’t missed is the commuting – the “schlepping” as we say in NYC – from Queens to Manhattan. The train ride, then the subway rides, then the buses, then the teeming crowds, the harassers, the sneezers, the cell phone yakkers, the panhandlers, the oglers, the  . . . well you get the idea. I’m going to miss the cocoon! I am a Cancer, and we are homebodies at heart. We like to feel sheltered and safe. And protected. And loved.

On the positive side, my returning to work means more drawings and modeling adventures, more blog post ideas and art topics and tales of the city. Much ahead for Museworthy! That’s a promise. I hope you all stick around for more discussion and fun in 2013. Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make it a great one 🙂

The Mirror, by Giovanni Zangrando:

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Happy New Year Wishes From the Muse

So 21013 is almost here folks. Woo hoo!!!! 2012 was very good to me, and I have reason to believe 2013 will be even better 🙂

What can I say about Museworthy except that we had a terrific year of blogging. Art, music, modeling tales, stories, laughs, poetry. All the usual goodies. And it’s going to continue, you can count on that. The support and enthusiasm of my readers keeps me motivated and inspired. It truly is a privilege to blog for all of you.

A New Year’s Nocturne, New York, 1892, Childe Hassam.

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And I haven’t forgotten that today is Monday. So the last day of 2012 brings the last Music Monday of the year. What song is more fitting than the classic “Auld Lang Syne”? Here is a memorable version of it 😆

A happy, happy New Year to everyone! Be safe. Be joyous. Enjoy your evening. I’ll see you on the other side.

Becoming Found

Greetings friends. I hope this blog post finds you well, at peace, and still joyful from the holiday season. Monday night, I attended Christmas Eve services at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan’s east side. Ten years ago my presence at that church, or any church, would have been highly improbable. On several occasions on this blog and in my other writings, I have alluded to, even discussed a bit, the “dark” stage of my life; my struggles with depression and anxiety, my exasperating inability to find peace and personal fulfillment, and my difficulty coping with losses and emotional pain.

As I walked toward St. Bart’s on that chilly, rainy night, my mind, my soul – my entire being – became swelled with thoughts; thoughts of how my life’s journey has unfolded over my 44 years, where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I might be going. I thought also of the grave plight of my fellow Christians in the Middle East and how the Western world is willfully turning a blind eye to their persecution. I thought of people everywhere; the ambitious, the destitute, the brave, and the misguided.  My heart began to ache, and part of me wanted to fall to my knees and kiss the pavement of Park Avenue.

Inside St. Bart’s, a magnificent structure of Byzantine architecture, the pews were filled to capacity with New Yorkers who came to worship. Our voices and the voices of choir members rang out like heavenly bells as we sang “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and the Rev. Buddy Stallings delivered a poignant sermon about hope and eternal light, about being lost and becoming found, and how even though we don’t always seek God, he always seeks us.

I never paid much mind to the notion of being “found” after having been lost, certainly not in the religious Christian sense. But it came to me, gradually, over the past several years. In fact, it snuck up on me and wove its way into my life in the most quiet, discreet way imaginable until I finally became aware of its presence and decided to pay attention. Consider it the slowest, steadiest blindside to ever take place.

Gouache sketch of me by Jonathan, created at Spring Studio:

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For those who care to listen for a brief eleven minutes, here is Rev. Buddy Stallings’ Christmas Eve sermon, aptly titled “Forever Light”. And I invite all of you to share in the comments any creation – book excerpt, sermon, poem, article, work of art, piece of music – that holds for you the answers to your spiritual questions, gives you hope, or best reveals your understanding of life’s purpose. I’d be honored to read your contributions.

Abundant blessings to each and every one of you. Let’s meet here one more time before 2012 comes to an end. See you Monday, friends!

Gauguin the Holiday Man

Greetings friends! I’ve been browsing through art images with Christmas themes, hoping to pluck out that one unique work that I’d want to share with all of you for the season. Though there are so many to choose from, I believe I found this year’s winner. It’s a painting by Paul Gauguin and I’ll tell you why this is significant; last Easter, to honor that holiday, I featured Gauguin’s The Yellow Christ. Now I have gravitated not only to another Gauguin but one also set in Pont-Aven, Brittany, France, as was The Yellow Christ. It’s clear that Gauguin enjoyed a brilliantly creative and productive stay in that region, as he was profoundly inspired by the Breton countryside and its inhabitants, so much so that he used it as the backdrop for Biblical events. And he did it well. From now on Gauguin may be my “go-to” guy for religious artwork!

This is Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen). I love the inclusion of animals in Christmas scenes. The oxen here are gentle, noble creatures, and Gauguin rightly made the shapes of their strong bodies the dominant forms of the composition.

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Supper at Emmaus

We had a lot of fun here on Museworthy a while back when I shared some of the bizarre search terms that brought visitors to this blog. Although that wackiness is still going strong, respectable inquiries still make up the majority I’m happy to say. Lately, my search terms column has been dominated by “Caravaggio” and that pleases me very much. Because Caravaggio is, well, Caravaggio – the Baroque master whose skills, technique, and commitment to “naturalism” continue to astound and inspire artists.

So I thought I’d be a good attentive blogger by responding in kind to the Caravaggio searchers and give them more of what they’re looking for. Let’s examine Caravaggio’s 1601 work Supper at Emmaus from The National Gallery in London. The painting depicts an event from the Gospel of Luke, in which two of Christ’s disciples discover that their resurrected lord had been in their dinner company unbeknownst to them, because he had taken on a “disguised” unrecognizable form. When Christ finally reveals himself to them, the moment is one of shock and disbelief. A very dramatic Biblical episode captured expertly by an artist who could do drama like no one else.

Artists who have struggled with foreshortening will no doubt marvel at what Caravaggio has done here. The gestural movements of the figures are done to perfection. The two outstretched arms are coming directly at us, and the figure on the left is pushing his elbows out as if to rise from his chair. Who needs 3D movies when we have Caravaggio’s masterful technique and visual acuity to draw us into the depth of the space. We feel like we are sitting right there at the table during the revelatory moment, or as if a camera snapped a picture and seized that one second of human reactions and gesticulations, both emotional and physical.

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Also note that Caravaggio didn’t neglect the still life aspect of the scene – the meal on the table. That one basket is almost teetering over the edge. Throw in Caravaggio’s famously deft handling of light and shadow, and you have a stunningly powerful scene. For a little comparative art exercise, contrast Caravaggio’s piece with Velasquez’s version of the same story.

For more analysis of Supper at Emmaus, visit the Smarthistory video page of this work.

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The noise, the noise. Must block out the noise. The voices. The incoherent words and tortured logic. Dipshit talking heads on television, opportunistic politicians, and an assortment of shrieking jackasses. Oh, you have all the answers? Forgive me, I must have forgotten that I’m supposed to capitulate to your unfailing wisdom. Because I love being lectured. LOVE IT!!!

As the human race continues its descent into soullessness and depravity, earth’s last uncorrupted souls remain in god’s other creatures – the animals. For a bit of sweet serenity during a tragic, painful time, this is Jessie and Calvin having a cat nap in my garden.

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I’ll be back very soon, friends.

Goodbye Brubeck

I wasn’t going to let a Music Monday pass without honoring the late Dave Brubeck, the jazz legend, pianist, and composer who died last Wednesday, one day short of his 92nd birthday. The California-born son of a cattle rancher enjoyed a tremendous career in music that spanned seven decades, and was very much beloved and appreciated by the public, if not always the critics. Since his death, an abundance of Brubeck articles and tributes can be found on the web, chock full of his extensive jazz contributions and biographical information. I for one had no idea that he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1980. In the New York Times obituary of Dave Brubeck, one paragraph really stood out for me:

Mr. Brubeck once explained succinctly what jazz meant to him. “One of the reasons I believe in jazz,” he said, “is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”

Some terrific jazz to get our week started, this is the Dave Brubeck Quartet performing “St. Louis Blues” in Belgium, 1964. Brubeck on piano, Joe Morello on drums, Paul Desmond on alto sax, and Eugene Wright on bass. Wright, by the way, is now the only surviving member of the original Brubeck quartet. Enjoy!

Edward and Edward

Yesterday, December 7th, marked eight years to the day that my father died. Can’t believe it’s been that long. Hard to grasp the passage of time. He’s been on my mind a lot lately. Those of you who have been following this blog for years have seen me write about him and are aware that he was a trumpet player. So here’s a wonderful Norman Rockwell piece that Dad would have loved. From a 1950 cover of the Saturday Evening Post, this is Boy Practicing Trumpet. Check out the dog!

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My father’s name was Edward, but he went by Eddie. I’d like to bring another Edward into this post; once again, the American painter Edward Hopper, who I don’t believe went by “Eddie”. But hey, you never know 😆 Anyway, I shared recently with all of you my essay “On Life, Healing, and Edward Hopper”, which appeared on Ethika Politika. Mattias Caro, the managing editor of the site, was very kind to send me an article on Hopper that he thought would interest me. And it certainly did. James Polchin reviewed the Edward Hopper retrospective which is currently on view at the Grand Palais in Paris. His piece in The Smart Set is an outstanding read. I adore Hopper even more now, and I didn’t think that was possible.

Here’s a beauty from Edward Hopper that is especially appropriate because it shows a couple, and my Hopper appreciation has taken on a richer, more intimate, personal dimension these days thanks to my own coupling with the “old flame” 🙂

Sunlight on Brownstones, 1956:

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So that’s our post for today, my dear friends. Works by two American artists, and honoring two Edwards. See you all soon.

1:00 AM Post

Helloooo Museworthy. May I post for no other reason than to say hello to my darling readers? Of course I may, it’s my blog! In the early days of Museworthy I used to do that a lot. I’d log on right before bed, ramble some meaningless nonsense for a few sentences, and maybe post an image if I had one to share. But that was before I was the seasoned, proficient blogger I am now 😆 Just kidding of course. I was, and still am, your humble muse.

Here’s a sweet little pencil drawing of me by Susie, created last Monday night at the National Art League, local life drawing in Queens just a three minute drive from my house. During this 20 minute pose, my mind was consumed with rapturous thoughts of a special someone:

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I’m a very happy girl these days. Looking forward to the holidays with warmth in my heart and joy in my spirit. I am blessed both personally and professionally, and if I could pass on my precious contentment to all of you I would. Maybe I already do a little bit, here on our little corner of the big wide web.

Hope everyone is well. See you again very soon friends 🙂

Kissing Crows and Nimble Rabbits

In recent days I have taken an interest in ravens, crows, and eagles and their symbolism, the reason for which I will explain another time. Until then, don’t be surprised if you see a lot of  bird imagery popping up here on Museworthy 🙂 Since I am in this fascination with intelligent birds phase, I shall use this opportunity to post a Picasso painting that I have long admired but not yet shared on the blog. One of the many stunners he created during his famous “Blue Period”, this is Woman With a Crow from 1904. I love this painting. And I love Picasso when he’s like this:

Charming, expressive, and poetic, this piece shows off not only Picasso’s extraordinary talents as a Modernist painter, but his uncanny ability to choose wonderful subjects for his work. And who are the subjects? Well, the woman was Margot and her avian companion was her pet crow. Who was Margot? She was the daughter of Frédéric Gérard. And who was Frédéric Gérard? He was the manager of Le Lapin Agile, the legendary Montmartre cabaret and bohemian watering hole that was wildly popular among artists and writers in Paris during the turn-of-the-century. For music, singing, drinking, and lively discussion, Le Lapin Agile was THE place to be, and I don’t even want to think about how much absinthe was consumed there!

Le Lapin Agile got its name in 1872 when the artist Andre Gill painted a new sign for the joint. It showed a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan, hence the name Le Lapin Agile, which means “The Nimble Rabbit” or “The Agile Rabbit”. But Le Lapin Agile almost didn’t survive to see the 20th century. The place was seedy and dangerous for many years, attracting hashish smokers and rough patrons who engaged in drunken bar fights and even shootings. But as luck would have it, the place fell into the hands of Frédéric Gérard, a musician and eccentric, colorful fellow, who turned it around and saved it from closure.

Frédéric Gérard, known simply as “Frédé”, happily accepted artwork as payment for bar tabs. And when your regular clientele includes such figures as Picasso, Modigliani, Utrillo, and Derain, that’s a pretty good deal for the house. Woman With a Crow was one of Picasso’s offerings but certainly not his most famous contribution to the Lapin Agile art collection. That honor belongs to his marvelous work At the Lapin Agile which is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum. That’s Picasso himself as the harlequin, Frédé playing his guitar in the background, and Germaine Pichot is the female figure. She is the woman who drove Picasso’s best friend to suicide. This is a great painting, and it hung on the wall at Le Lapin Agile until 1912 when Frédé sold it for a mere $20. Yes folks, a great painting can come about even when an artist is settling a bar bill as Picasso likely was in this case. And 70 years later it fetched $40 million at auction at Sotheby’s. Incredible.

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And for those of you who might be interested, check out this article for a hilarious story about Le Lapin Agile that involves an art hoax and a donkey named Lolo. Yes, really. A donkey. 😆