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B/ Picasso and the Penroses

Roland Penrose met Picasso the summer of 1936, thanks to the poet Paul Éluard, of whom he was close friend as a result of the organization of the «International Surrealist Exhibition». The following year, the friendship started to become closer when Penrose bought directly to Picasso one of his works, Woman lying in the Sun of the Beach (1932). Penrose wrote a total of eighteen books about Picasso. The more relevant is the biography Picasso: His life and Work (1958), so much because it was written with the collaboration of the artist, as for the deep knowledge that Roland had of the picassian work. [+]

“He seemed to be possessed by some internal force which he obeyed without knowing just where it would lead him from day to day — like a volcano which after lying asleep, will burst into eruption unexpectedly. In consequence, his unpredictable moods, which could drive to distraction those who lived with him, demanded respect like the forces of nature.”

Roland Penrose, 1964.

“[...] there is a shot of Lee, Roland, Picasso and Jacqueline all looking at a small scrap of paper. They are relaxed and happy, obviously enjoying each other’s company. For me, that represents the vital fusion of friendship and creativity that took place in the genuine warmth of the modest generous man who was the greatest artist of all time.”

Antony Penrose, 2007, "The Boy that Bit Picasso” in Lee Miller: Picasso in private [exhibition catalogue].

Fragment of the documentary The Surrealist & The Photographer, 2001. Original production: Gavin Trunbull for The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Images Lee Miller Archives. All rights reserved. Duration 1'38 min.

  • Picasso and Lee Miller in Picasso’s studio
  • Rue des Grands Augustins, Paris, 1944
  • © Lee Miller Archives.

Text written by Roland Penrose, included in the exhibition catalogue. Roland Penrose, 1964.

The Roland Penrose Archive, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, The Dean Gallery, Edinburgo, Escocia.

The preparation of all these works required close and constant contact with the artist. Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, often accompanied by their son Antony, visited him regularly, both in Paris and in the south of France. Picasso visited the Penroses once at their home Farley Farm in East Sussex, while in England for the 1950 Peace Conference.

The faithful passion of Roland Penrose for the life and the work of Picasso did never decline, even though the relationship between them was not always easy nor an equal one. The intensity of the fascination and, at the same time, of the suffering that experimented Roland in front of the artist explain that on more than one occasion Lee Miller referred to herself as a «widow of Picasso».