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A Century of Giving

Pablo Picasso

Drawing of Lydia Lopokova


graphite on paper, 35.7 x 25.5 cm

The Fitzwilliam Museum: PD.6-1989

Picasso drew the great Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova (1891-1981) in 1919, during his first visit to London - when he was working as a set designer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. He had married one of Lopokova's own friends, the dancer Olga Khokhlova, in 1918.

Lopokova had many remarkable literary and artistic friends and was painted by several celebrated artists, including Augustus John, Walter Sickert and Glyn Philpot. Osbert Sitwell was one of her many admirers: "she developed the movements of her hands and arms in a way that hitherto no dancer had attempted."

Here Picasso's simple, delicate pencil lines capture Lydia's slight figure at a moment of stillness: translating her 'effervescent intelligence' into an image of simplicity, grace and composure.

In 1925, Lopokova married the economist, John Maynard Keynes, a Fellow of Kings College in Cambridge. He owned a large collection of 20th century art, including notable works by Cézanne, Degas and Seurat, much of which is now on loan to the Fitzwilliam.

Nearby, is Picasso's cubist Portrait of Fernande. It was given in 1974 by Dr Alistair Hunter, first Honorary Keeper of 20th century Art, under whom the Fitzwilliam first started actively acquiring modern art.

The drawing of Lopokova was purchased in 1989; the Friends contributing over £11,000 of the total £88,000. In 1993, they helped to secure another drawing by Picasso of Bertie Landsberg, who had known Sydney Cockerell whilst a student at Trinity Hall.

In 2008, they added to the small but important group of Picasso prints with a portfolio entitled Sueño y Mentira de Franco (Dreams and Lies of Franco): the artist's personal response to the Spanish Civil War.

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