Art: Pablo Picasso's Last Days and Final Journey

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DEATH holds no fear for me," Picasso recently told a friend. "It has a kind of beauty. What I am afraid of is falling ill and not being able to work. That's lost time." Right up to the end, Picasso lost no time.

The day before he died had been a day like many others at Notre-Dame-de-Vie, his hilltop villa at Mougins on the French Riviera. Late in the afternoon the artist had taken a walk in the little park that surrounds his sprawling stone house overlooking the reddish foothills of the Maritime Alps. He liked now and then to gather flowers and vegetables in the garden, often taking them inside to draw. "That day I showed him the anemones and pansies, which he particularly liked," recalls Jacques Barra, Picasso's gardener.

Later that evening Picasso and his wife Jacqueline entertained friends for dinner. Picasso was in high spirits. "Drink to me; drink to my health," he urged, pouring wine into the glass of his Cannes lawyer and friend, Armand Antebi. "You know I can't drink any more." At 11:30 he rose from the table and announced: "And now I must go back to work." In recent weeks, he had been working especially hard, preparing for a big show of his latest paintings at the Popes' Palace in Avignon in May. On this night, before he went to bed, he painted until 3 a.m.

On Sunday morning Picasso awoke at 11:30, his usual hour, but this time he could not rise from his bed. His wife Jacqueline rushed in and then called for help. At 11:40, before a doctor could get there, Pablo Picasso was dead. Dr. Georges Ranee, who arrived shortly afterward, attributed his death to a heart attack brought on by pulmonary edema, fluid in the lungs.

At daybreak on Tuesday, as an unseasonable snowfall blanketed the south of France, a small cortege left Mougins and carried Picasso's body to his 14th century chateau at Vauvenargues in the bleak Provencal countryside. Accompanying the body were Picasso's widow; her daughter by her first marriage, Catherine Hutin; and Paulo, 52, Picasso's son by his first marriage to the Russian dancer Olga Koklova. After the 1 10-mile journey, the mahogany casket, without ceremony, was placed in the chateau chapel to await the building of a mausoleum.

But the shroud of estrangement from three of his grown children that had clouded Picasso's last years also marred his death. For reasons never entirely clear, Maya, Picasso's daughter by his longtime mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, and Claude and Paloma, his children by Françoise Gilot, had been prevented from seeing their father in recent years. Last week the same sad situation prevailed. Indeed, this time police were on hand to turn away Marie-Therese and other old friends who came to pay their respects.

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