Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Picasso and the War

The Second World War in Europe had a profound effect upon the artists living, or perhaps, to put it more accurately, "surviving" there during its reign of terror. Many artists of some renown, seeing the political handwriting on the wall, or the shadow of Hitler from Germany, simply fled. The U.S., and New York in particular, were the prime beneficiaries of this exodus, but South America, Mexico, and Canada also welcomed those fleeing the war. For those who remained, the times were unsettling.  Pablo Picasso chose to stay. So did Henri Mattise. Picasso is said to have met him on the street the day the Germans crossed from Belgium into France.  Matisse was on his way to his tailor's. When Picasso reminded him that the Nazi's might arrive in Paris any day, Matisse is said to have asked naively, "But what about our generals, what are they doing?"  Picasso responded, "Oh they're all from the College of Fine Arts."

Dora Maar Au Chat, 1941,
Pablo Picasso
Although Picasso seems to have continued his creative output pretty much uninterrupted by the war, the conflict nonetheless did present him with a number of growing inconveniences as it progressed.  He was forced to abandon his apartment at rue La Boetie for much smaller quarters at rue des Grands-Augustins, and even there, inspite of a big, brand-new stove, he had to spend much of his time in the neighborhood cafes just to keep warm. There was a severe shortage of fuel. He chose to stay in Paris to be with his mistress, Dora Maar leaving his other mistress, Maria-Therese and their daughter, Maia in Royan. Meanwhile, his wife, Olga remained in the south of France.

By the 1940s, Picasso was something of an international celebrity, which may account for how he survived the war relatively unscathed. He was wealthy by this time too, which certainly was no liability in times of war. Still, the war was not without a great deal of emotional pain as he saw his Jewish friends either killed or hauled off to concentration camps where they more often died of malnutrition and disease than execution. Others were killed fighting in the French Resistance. And yet, his studio was something of a tourist attraction for occupying German soldiers. Picasso even handed out to them autographed postcards of Guernica as souvenirs. A German officer is said to have studied the image and asked, "Did you do this?"  Picasso replied, "No, YOU did."
Guernica, 1937, Pablo Picasso

No comments:

Post a Comment