Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)
Oil on canvas
39 x 39 1/2 in. (99.1 x 100.3 cm)
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1992, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002 (1992.391)
© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The destitute outcasts featured in Picasso's Blue Period gave way, in 1905, to circus performers and harlequins in more colorful settings. At the Lapin Agile, a canvas nearly square and broadly painted, was originally conceived to decorate a bar in Montmartre, the interior of which is depicted here. Since the painting would be seen across a crowded and smoky room, Picasso's composition was of posterlike simplicity. He aligned glasses and figures—hatted and shown from full-face to profile view—along severe diagonals, ending with a seated guitarist, Frédéric (Frédé) Gérard, the café's owner. Standing at the counter is Picasso himself, dressed as the melancholy and gaunt Harlequin in a vivid diamond-patterned shirt and three-cornered hat. Behind him, in profile with heavy makeup and pouty lips, leans Germaine Pichot, a model and notorious femme fatale, wearing a gaudy orange dress, bead choker, boa, and feathered hat. In 1901, unrequited love for Germaine had driven Picasso's close friend Carlos Casagemas to suicide, a melodrama that continued to haunt Picasso several years later.