Picasso, Málaga, Barcelona, Paris
In 2003 the fourth Picasso museum opens its doors in Malaga, his place of birth.
The museum is composed by donations of family members and exposes one of the largest permanent Picasso collections. The Spanish press titles: ”Finally Picasso comes back home”.
Son of a teacher in Fine Arts, Picasso lived in Malaga until the age of 10.He will assist his father´s classes as early as age six and soon starts painting himself with astonishing results. The multiple pigeons ,flying up the balcony of their house, located at the Plaza de Merced, and the nearby bullring, with its struggle between men, horse and bull will be important influences throughout his career .Before ending up in Paris ,he spends part of his youth in La Coruña, Madrid and especially in Barcelona.
An important part of Picasso’s painting were claimed by the French government to pay off the artist´s heir taxes.
Picasso is considered one of the main artist in “The history of Forms”, being the creator of a nose in profile on a frontal painted face ,later known as cubism.
He is also the inventor of the Collage, a technique massively used today in all kind of different media, for example the pc programme “ photoshop”
In the 19twenties in Paris, Picasso and entourage encourage Hemmingway to go and see the bullfights in Spain, ….an advice that profoundly changed the writer’s life.
In 1936 Picasso was entitled “Honorary Director of the Prado Museum” by the republicans who Picasso openly supported. At the outbreak of the civil war, Picasso will organize the move of all important classic works of the Prado museum in Madrid to safer Valencia. The artist had spent so much time in his youth in the Prado, it had become his second home. During that same Spanish civil war, Hitler, being Franco’s ally, bombs the bask village of Gernika to test his air force in preparation of the second world war. Deeply touched and inspired by this massacre Picasso presents in 1937 “Guernica” in Paris´ world expo. From the moment the enormous canvas was first seen, it excited admiration, dislike, astonishment and controversy. It must said that, during the Paris expo, the Spanish pavilion was set up as an outcry against upcoming fascism and a warning for Europe that democracy was at stake, due to Franco and his dictatorial friends. An impressive list of artists, such as Miro, Buñuel and the by Franco recently assassinated poet Garcia Lorca presented their work. Small replicas were sold at the entrance of the pavilion to raise funds for the republican cause. Remarkable was the contribution of Hemmingway together with Dutch filmer Joris Ivens. They presented a documentary that shows the peaceful daily life of a Spanish rural village,… suddenly attacked by Franco’s fascists. Families are brutally separated, every night less villagers come back home. Entitled: ”Spanish Earth”, this document is a unique reflection of republican resistance and shows the drama and injustices of war. Orson Welles, enlisted to record the commentary, wanted to change some of the lines which he thought sounded unduly pompous. At a viewing of the film, described by Welles in “Cahiers du Cinéma,” he and Hemingway got into huge arguing, going at each other with chairs and fists, as the armies fought it out on the screen in front of them. The two American heavyweights were reconciled over a bottle of whiskey, and though Welles still gets the credit in some of the early prints, it is Hemingway’s flat, harsh monotone that accompanies the film. Hemingway took the republican cause so personal, that after the Paris expo, he organised parties and lectures in Hollywood to raise funds for the Republic.
The official German guidebook to the world expo incorporated Hitler´s recent pronouncements on modern art with the suggestion that visitors should pass by the pavilion of “Red” Spain. He describes “Guernica” as the dream of a madman, a melee of broken bodies, probably the work of a four year old child.
After 3 years of civil war, Franco becomes Head of State and Spain slides into 40 years of misery and dictatorship, paralysing the development of the Spanish socio-cultural life. Picasso prohibited in 1939 the exposure of Guernica in Spain while Franco is alive, saddling up the general with his first important cultural embargo.
Many left wing intellectuals and artist fled and develop their careers in neighbouring countries ,later followed by millions of Spanish emigrants, escaping poverty and censorship. The train connection between Paris and Madrid was for years a symbol of this emigration with too many stories of split up families ,lovers and friends. Today Manu Chau and lots of other musicians embody these migrations in their music.
So at the end of 1939,at the outburst of World War II Picasso sends “Guernica” to the U.S., where it will tour the country during the beginning of the forties, and soon obtain a tremendous impact as it was perceived as a sign of alarm for what was happening in Europe. In its bulletin of october1942 the New York Moma museum announced:” This is art that Hitler hates because it is modern, progressive, challenging; because it is international, leading to understanding and tolerance among nations; because it is free, the free expression of free men.”
Meanwhile back in Paris , Picasso´s studio is frequently controlled by the Nazi’s, who suspected him for collaboration with the Jews. On one of these searches, a German officer had recognized a print of “Guernica”, pinned to the wall and asked him :”Did you do that?” Picasso coldly replied :”No, you did”
With the liberation of Paris in 1945 Picasso becomes universally known. Far more than a great painter, he turns into a popular symbol of liberty and an emblem of intellectual resistance against fascism. His studio becomes literally the centre of a cultural pilgrimage .The artist joked to a friend: ”Paris is liberated, but me, I was and remain besieged”. When critics asked him why, between the horror and anger in the “Guernica” painting, the white dove appears, he answers, fed up with questions on symbolism behind his oeuvre,: “I think it is a chicken”. Despite the artists´ cynicism, this dove of peace became a world wide symbol for the communist party and for peace in general.
In Spain in the fifties and sixties, contraband copies of Guernica hung above many Spanish dining tables as a memorial to the lives and hopes that were destroyed in the civil war. When the feared Guardia Civil searched houses, they would automatically tear down the copy and people even risked jail.
In the late sixties Guernica becomes a favourite backdrop for anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and Picasso receives hundreds of letters of American artists who suggest that because of U.S. atrocities in Asia, he ought to take Guernica home. Picasso refused because he still wouldn’t trust general Franco, and unfortunately Franco will outlive the artist. When after Franco’s dead, negotiations between the Moma museum and new Spanish government began ,the question raised where Guernica would be exposed?
The Basks were convinced it should come back to Gernika or nearby Bilbao, Catalans
wanted it for its Picasso museum, Malaga because it was his place of birth and Madrid said it should reside in the Prado. After intense political discussions and national polls, it was the capital Madrid that won this dramatic political battle .Most probably, due to this polemic, Bilbao would obtain years later the contract for the installation of The Guggenheim. Guernica touches Spanish soil for the first time in 1981 with the minister of culture emotionally stating: ”Finally, the last refugee is back”.
Dali, on the contrary, openly supported Franco’s regime, even more by painting Franco’s granddaughter as a personal present for the family .Dali and Picasso had met in Paris in the early twenties, Picasso would later say: He was like a son to me ,a shame “circumstances” have separated us. Drawing a portrait of Picasso, Dali goes into direct confrontation , signing it with: ”Picasso is a communist, me neither…”.He will repeat this slogan in a lecture in Madrid in 1951.When Picasso hears about this he responds: ”Absolutely genius”. Although his artistic respect, Picasso would refuse to meet again an insisting Dali ,who would then send all kind of strange postcards to Picasso´s home in the south of France. Strangely enough, once democracy installed, Dali was never asked for his support of general Franco´s regime, covering himself with the status of a living myth.
Picasso was called “The bullfighter of painting” because the bull and the horse, classic figures of the “corrida” are present in all of his artistic outings. Lorca had described the bullfights as a direct and courageous confrontation with dead that the human spirit truly could soar ,and in which great art could be born,….el duende.
In the thirties a minotaur ,half man and half bull ,began to inhabit Picasso’s work. This creature seemed to fuse for the artist the base with the divine, the spiritual with the erotic and perhaps even love with hate. To bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin, who was a close friend of Picasso ,the painter once said: If it wasn’t for Franco, I would be your tour manager and follow you to all the corridas. This friendship was sealed with the publication of a book :”Bulls and Bullfighters”, a compilation of paintings and personal stories. At the end of the fifties, with sold out arenas everywhere, Dominguin was the biggest rival of Antonio Ordoñez, founder of the famous Goyescas in Ronda Their confrontations were written down by Hemmingway for the American magazine, Life, one of the most important magazines of those times. Unfortunately Picasso could not be present on these legendary afternoons, but witnesses tell that at the age of 92,just before dying in 1973, Picasso was seen passionately fighting an invisible bull with his bath towel, intensively shouting Ole,Ole,Ole
His close friend Miro, will make a Picasso homage ,in form of a public stamp, at the celebration of his centenary in 1981.Thousands of Spaniards will seal their cards and letters with this stamp, exploring again, freedom of speech in a new democracy, something both artist fought for since the Paris expo in 1937.
Twenty years after the publishing of this stamp in 2001, a giant work of Miro, that adorned the entrance of the New York Twin Towers, came down with the destruction of the towers, sadly remembering the warning the artist launched more than sixty years before. Fellow Picasso had told us: “Wars start and end ,but hostilities endure.”