Painting of a hand (undated)"Une découverte majeure" (a major discovery) read the headlines on Liberation Magazine as the news broke of a treasure trove of Picasso's works, coming to light in a very unusual, some might say bizarre way.
Picasso convinced the man to bring the collection to Paris, saying he would be unable to verify it from photographs. The man arrived by car with the paintings in a suitcase and laid them out on a table.
Still life glass sand
"I felt a great surprise, naturally, lots of emotion at the discovery of pieces with which we were not familiar. But also a deep disturbance," he told French daily Liberation. "Many of these pieces were not dated, which means they never should have left the studio." (methinks there's a bit of class snobbery here; heavens forbid that a lowly working-class guy be the recipient of Pablo's generosity. Also, if they were stolen during Picasso's lifetime, wouldn't he have known and reported the theft to the police?)
Retired electrician Pierre Le Guennec (pictured outside his home in Mouans-Sartoux, France) claims Picasso gave him 271 artworks.
The man in question was Pierre Le Guennec, an electrician in his seventies who worked on Picasso's property in the south of France during the 1970s. He told Reuters Television that Picasso's wife gave him the artworks.
"It's Madame (Picasso) who gave them. But if Madame gave them, Monsieur was aware of it. She wasn't going to do it just like that, was she?" he said, speaking through a gate in front of his property. "What did you want me to do with them? ... They stayed in a box with other boxes that I have, from my job." Le Guennec has denied stealing the paintings and told RTL radio he decided to ask about their value as a possible inheritance for his children.
Experts estimate the nine Cubist collages alone to be worth €40 million ($53 million). The 71-year-old electrician managed to have the works authenticated by the artist's estate in September, but the estate subsequently sued for possession of stolen goods and the works were seized last month by the Office Central de Lutte contre le Trafic de Biens Culturels, the French art-trafficking squad. Unwilling to risk losing the works, Picasso's heirs successfully appealed to a judge to have the works placed under lock and key, where experts can study and care for them. "We have questions, legitimate questions about where the paintings came from," Claudia Andrieu, legal counsel for the Picasso Foundation, told Reuters Television. "We are discovering new pieces, completely unknown pieces that had never been printed in any book." (And isn't the Picasso family just itching to get their fingers on this and add to their fortune?)
Papier colle pipe et bouteille (Copy paste pipe and bottle)
Among the works are nine extremely rare Cubist collages, a watercolor from Picasso's Blue period, several painted hand studies, some 30 lithographs and over 200 drawings, as well as portraits of the artist's first wife, Olga Khokhlova.
While the artist was known to dash out sketches on napkins at restaurants and make spontaneous gifts to friends, he would not have separated with such a large store of work, his son told Liberation. Claude Picasso stated that, in his opinion, " It doesn't hold up." Pablo Picasso was both hugely prolific and sometimes generous with his work, but was he generous to give hundreds of his early works -- an invaluable collection -- to his electrician?
Neither Le Guennec nor his wife, who also spoke to AOL News and also laughed several times during the conversation, seemed concerned that they were rapidly becoming the subject of an international story.
Ms. Le Guennec said the box of Picassos had sat in the garage of her home for 30 years. But Mr. Le Guennec recently underwent major surgery, and they began to worry about their children’s inheritance, she said. And the box came out so she could authenticate its contents.
“We don’t have anything left now,” she said, but added, “We have our lawyer.”
"I have a little idea why Picasso gave us this gift, but I'm not sure," Le Guennec said. "For me it was just a gift. He was a marvelous man. I didn't know if it was worth one franc or a hundred francs at the time."
When asked if he was concerned that people might wonder if he stole it, Le Guennec said no.
"People can think whatever they want to think," he said. "It doesn't bother me."
Good essay indicating that this is the art news of the year. Note the comment about the spiteful behavior of the Picasso heirs, already trying to exploit the work before it's been analyzed. The comment also pointed out that not only did Picasso give away "lesser" works during his life time but the estate settled several claims after his death by gifting art work to the claimants. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/8
Images from AP Wire Services