With the need to feed the hungry peaking during the COVID-19 pandemic, Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Harald Herrmann has offered innovative and inspiring leadership. Second Harvest was able to distribute 7.4 million pounds of food to some 500,000 people during a single month recently, and that’s while a third or more of the distribution locations were closed.

Still, Herrmann felt the need to raise awareness and inspire philanthropists and volunteers to help, particularly in the art and culture community. So he put his personal collection of Picasso prints collected over 20 years up for virtual auction, donating a portion of the proceeds to benefit Second Harvest and Feeding America.

Max Jacob, Saint Matorel, Henry Kahnweiler, Paris, 1911, by Pablo Picasso.

Before his creative genius brought him fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, Pablo Picasso was poor. He experienced the pangs of hunger and the pain of disease. Two of his sisters died during pandemics: one of cholera while she was an infant. And his seven-year-old sister Conchita died during an outbreak of diphtheria during a time when she could have been saved had the family been able to afford the treatment. Picasso was a starving young artist himself during his first years painting in Paris, famously burning some of his work to heat the studio he shared with poet Max Jacob.

Le Repas Frugal (The Frugal Meal), 1904, was reportedly inspired by his experience of poverty and hunger. It’s a favorite of Herrmann’s, who notes that the image has taken on added relevance during the hunger crisis sparked by COVID-19. 

Christie’s organized the auction, titled Nourishment for the Soul: The Herrmann Collection of Prints by Pablo Picasso. Held in September, it raised some $363,125, with 10 percent, plus half of Christie’s fee, donated to help the cause. Every $1 donated to Second Harvest provides food for three meals.

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