LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND: Angela Rosengart was only a teenager when she met Pablo Picasso for the first time. Today, at 88, the Swiss art collector from Lucerne fondly recalls more than 50 encounters with the charismatic Spanish artist, most notably the five occasions when she posed for him.
Angela Rosengart and her collection
For years Rosengart displayed her collection of Picassos in a historic but unobtrusive gallery on a side street in the Old Town of Lucerne.
In 2002 however, the exhibition expanded and moved to a neoclassical building across the River Reuss in New Town. Situated on Pilatustrasse, across the street from the railway station and in the shadow of the famed Chapel Bridge, the new display represents three Rosengart collections, each with its own floor.’
Over the years Rosengart also met Miro, Matisse, Braque, and Chagall, but none of them could match the aura of Picasso.
“It was those deep, piercing Spanish eyes,” she says.
“They felt like arrows, and I very much felt that.”
After sessions ranging from 20 minutes to three hours, Frau Rosengart says she was exhausted each time because her soul felt “burned” by the experience.
Art in the family
Following in the footsteps of her father Siegfried, who was responsible for her love of art and collecting, Rosengart’s exhibition includes about 60 Impressionist and pos-Impressionist paintings. There are also over 125 watercolors and drawings by native son artist Paul Klee, 32 oils and more than 50 drawings by Picasso.
Siegfried Rosengart became Picasso’s principal dealer in Switzerland and held eight exhibitions of the artist’s work between 1956 and 1971.
Each catalog cover was designed by the artist himself.
For years the Rosengarts frequently visited Picasso in the south of France, and it was this unique life-long friendship that has a subliminal effect on visitors to her gallery today.
Part of the magic lies in a collection of black and white photographs by American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan that chronicle the artist’s life. David Douglas Duncan and Picasso became close friends, and he was the only person allowed to photograph many of Picasso’s private paintings.
Duncan made a name for himself as a combat and freelance photographer of Life magazine and National Geographic. The photographer, who died earlier this year at the age of 102, first met Picasso while on assignment for Life magazine. The artist invited him to enter his home as he was taking a bath and, unable to resist the opportunity, Duncan’s photographic instincts took over.
It was an event that marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Five Portraits of Angela
Later, Angela purchased Duncan’s entire collection of Picasso images. When combined with her personal collection of Picasso’s work, the artist comes to life in ways that are difficult to describe without a personal viewing.
The five portraits of Angela, which Picasso gave to her, are the centerpiece of her exhibition. Though Picasso was passionate in his love for women, his sketches of Angela are “compassionate” in a manner that presents his subject as the chaste, innocent teenager she was. In that sense, the etchings are uniquely different from most of Picasso’s other portraits.
Rosengart believes that perhaps the reason for the lovingly platonic representations of her was due to the fact that Picasso’s childhood sweetheart’s name was Angela.
Says Rosengart of Picasso’s portraits, “He only wanted to know whether my mother liked them.”
Angela Rosengart’s later life
Angela Rosengart never married. If she had, she says she would probably never have been able to amass her collections.
Despite that, when one of Siegfried’s clients became frustrated that Angela’s father would not sell one of his prized Picassos. The agent had promised the picture to his daughter on her wedding day. Hearing the story, the bemused Picasso pragmatically asked, “Then why didn’t he marry Angela?”
Thanks to their close association with the artist, the Rosengarts were able to watch Picasso at work on several occasions. That relationship allowed them to reserve some of the renderings while the paint was still wet.
So intimate and personal are Angela Rosengart’s collections that she never lends to other galleries. For her, a stroll through her museum is like visiting with old friends.
The Rosengart collection features the works of Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and Chagall as well as those of Swiss native son Paul Klee, who also holds a place deep in Angela’s heart. But it is the works of Pablo Picasso she holds most dear.
You see this is a love story about a triangle between a photographer, an artist, and a collector. It is a story about life, living, and friendship. And though it was not sexual, it was every bit as passionate and intimate.
(Reprinted and updated from May 14, 2016)
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is anaward-winningg television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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