Thursday, December 04, 2014

Picasso’s Political Paintings Still Relevant Today

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is the quintessential anti-war painting of the 20th Century. Named after the Spanish town bombed by the fascists during the Spanish Civil War it depicts the horrors of war in general and modern warfare in particular. The effect of the destruction in his home land was such that Picasso made 27 drawings and nine paintings based on the subject apart from his mural sized masterpiece. Most notable amongst them is the 1937 painting Weeping Woman, the fascist bombers reflected in her eyes underscores the despair and impotence of the literal wailing and gnashing of teeth depicted.

After its Paris debut in 1937, Guernica along with the Weeping Woman was exhibited in England.  The result of the exhibitions can be seen in Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War currently on show at Chichester’s Pallant House. The Picasso works cast a long shadow over the British works displayed causing the Telegraph newspaper’s Alastair Smart to lament “we end up in the disorienting position of witnessing not responses to civil war but responses to a response to civil war.” Whilst the Spectator’s Laura Gascoigne musedit’s all terribly English and polite.”

The weeping Woman is part of the exhibition, Guernica is not. Although a banner replica of the work made by the Remaking Picasso’s Guernica Collective of artists, activists and the general public is. Created 75 years after cessation of the curtain raiser to the Second World War it is as relevant today as it was then. The geography may have changed but the specter of war looms as large while the actions of the world’s political leaders are as reactive.

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