Letters show Picasso was no collaborator

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He stayed in Paris when the Nazis invaded, keeping his head down and prompting claims that he must have collaborated with Hitler's regime. But, covertly, Picasso played a "brave" role in supporting the French Resistance, according to previously unpublished letters revealed this weekend.

Professor Peter Read, head of the French department in the University of Kent at Canterbury, has gained access to a collection of letters proving that Picasso actively and courageously supported the Resistance activist Robert Desnos, who was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944 and sent to Auschwitz. He died in Terezin concenration camp, days after the camp's liberation, still speaking about the help he'd received from the founder of Cubism.

One of the most widely recognised figures of 20th-century art, Picasso was denounced as a "degenerate" artist by Hitler. According to Professor Read, Picasso sometimes helped his friends and fellow artists by getting them commissions, and agreed to provide the frontispiece illustration for a book of Desnos's poems called Contrée – which contained subversive, anti-fascist coding.

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