Picasso , Cubism & War on the 26th April 1937

Not only have I been wandering all over Gippsland enjoying the galleries and scenery, I have been wandering all over the place with the art topics on the blog. Back to some order. Some time back we were looking at Cubism as part of the Modern Art Movement and I covered some of the female Australian cubists. I've been skirting around Pablo Picasso because I'm nervous I can't do him justice as one of the founding fathers of cubism. But face him I must as I also want to tackle the War Artists and Picasso's Guernica is considered by many to be one of the greatest paintings about war ever made. But first, what was going on in Picasso's MindStudio?

Picasso didn’t want his paintings to be a reflection of reality. He believed an object is seen from many angles as influenced by sight and movement. His first venture into creating this perception of the world was defined as Analytical Cubism. Picasso's painting Girl with a Mandolin (1910) is an example illustrating the use of a muted colour palette where greys, ochre, black, blue dominate.
Artists painting in an Analytical Cubism style focused on forms: cylinders, spheres and cones were used to represent the natural world. And often the subject matter was unemotional such as found in still life and landscape paintings. Picasso's Portrait of Ambroise Vollard completed in 1910 is also done in the Analytical Cubism style and note again the muted palette.
Notice also that in both these paintings it is the centre that is in focus and the forms become more diffused towards the edges.

From about 1912 to 1914 Picasso began to experiment with a technique that came to be called Synthetic Cubism characterised by simpler shapes and brighter colours. At this stage his friend and co-founder of Cubism, Georges Braque was also experimenting with a similar perception of the world. But this blog is about Picasso. An example of the changes in Picasso's style towards Synthetic Cubism can be seen in Souvenir du Havre produced in 1912.
But Synthetic Cubism really began when artists started adding textures and patterns to their paintings and began experimenting with collages made from newspaper print and patterned paper. Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper is a small papier collé by Pablo Picasso, produced in 1913.

The majority of Picasso’s works of Cubism are paintings but he also created etchings, lithographs and linocuts in the style of Cubism.

But we must start looking at Guernica which was produced relatively late in Picasso's cubist period - in the same year (1937) as the well known Weeping Woman. Guernica is hanging in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain and to give you a sense of the size I have included this image. The mural like painting is 3.49 meters (11 ft 5 in) tall and 7.76 meters (25 ft 6 in) wide.

Picasso has used a palette of grey, black and white in the painting which was created in response to the bombing of Guernica (a Basque Country village, northern Spain) by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalist during the Spanish Civil War. The day of the bombing was the 26 April 1937 exactly 81 years ago today. Yes, it is very strange that the day I decided to start our study of war paintings falls on the anniversary of the bombing. I do have close connections with Spain through family, friends and ancestry so I find this most appropriate.

Let's have a closer look at the image as created by Pablo Picasso which is one of the most powerful anti-war paintings in history. The message conveyed by Picasso is one of chaos, violence, the dreadful suffering of the victims- people and animals.
The dominance of the bull and the horse relate, of course, to the importance of these animals in Spanish culture. The bull can be seen to represent brutality and darkness, the onslaught of Fascism. According to Picasso the horse represented the people of Guernica. Here is the image of the horse up close.
Picasso's creative process on his monumental work Guernica was recorded photographically by Dora Maar (Henriette Theodora Markovitch). Here are a couple of her photos to show you Picasso's sketches as the painting evolved.
When completed the painting Guernica was exhibited at the Spanish display at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (Paris International Exposition) in the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. Follow this the painting was sent on a touring exhibition to raise funds for Spanish war relief.

Tomorrow you will meet another Spanish artist, Joan Miro whose works were also exhibited at Spain’s 1937 International Exposition pavilion. Miro was not particularly political in attitude but he did make a number of works in response to the situation as it unfolded during the Spanish Civil War.

The Hero Image shows the devastation by bombing of Guernica. (Ref: http://docohosreviews.blogspot.com/)

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on anewman@netspace.net.au or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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