In March I went to the Picasso & Paper exhibition at the R.A and was struck once again by the multiple different lives that this man inhabited. His personal artistic journey spanning over 80 years resulting in possibly the most diverse range of styles of any artist. The political and historical situation of two World Wars a boom and a crash. His private life, whose uncovering has raised concerns as to whether we should be lauding this magnificent artist, who was also an unpleasant man.
We have in the past attempted to separate the art from the artist because it is extraordinary art and yet going through the rooms and looking at the displays I felt that the exhibition was an uncovering of Picasso, and attempt to expose him, ‘the man behind the art’ through the art and makings of the man. The series of ‘minotaur paintings’ (1928), the links to virile power and monstrosity coupled his letters, scraps, envelopes- even tissues give a layered collage of this man and the context in which he created.
This was an experiment I tried a few years ago in a close reading of ‘Guernica’ through the personal and the historical smashing into, and informing each other. The cut-out, collaged nature of the painting taking away conventional perspective and this depth and juxtaposing mundane, grotesque, violent and erotic seemed an apt way of finding depth in surfaces. I used footnotes because they give a sense of fact and proof, though, in fact, they are just more attempts at links and suppositions. All connections between man and history are conjecture not certainty. It is a fun form to play in.
Sword, Flower, Sun, Lightbulb, Ball, Testicles
turned, screaming in a silent cry of female figures striding, breasts out
Flaming arm holding light, stretching across the monochrome midnight green
whilst softly, artists easels morph into complexity,
Growing into light before being released
as the “cataclysm of life,” what of the catatonic brutality of war?
Meanwhile, Hitler grew.
Love, power, possibilities, lost
strain, grind against. Franco fights through, practicing his art
Of bombing babies as a drill.
Vested interest denies Individuals, they exist
as targets, subjects, domestic fodder.
Bombers overhead, the art is flown away,
Saved, hidden from the crisis
Cartoons form compensation, dated with precision
As the bombs drop to carpet death.
Franco, Horse, Minotaur, Bull, Painter
Formed from procrastination as they bury the bodies
Worried about scale.
Still, they keep on falling, fire, explosions, fantastic light-
1st May 1937, now inspired
Birds, Bull, Horse and Hand, Infants disemboweled
Elements, Thoughts, Ideas, Paint plastered
along a journey
Cut up, sporadic methodical pain leads to abandonment
It’s already too late.
Propaganda, Installed into space, discuss, don’t act,
“Death comes from the air” is ignored on the ground
as they talk about art, what else can be done?
Weeping women follow on, but tears are not enough.
War rages, people fall, convulsions of terror to shock the world
Art intervenes, reacts, and continues regardless.
 Picasso meticulously recorded everything he did but not any notice of the outside world
 Picasso didn’t tell anyone about his second wife, she was his secret.
 Finally he hired a studio as a way to make him paint again
 Republic v nationals also one of P’s paintings
 For Hitler’s bombing practice, for Franco’s campaign, for Picasso’s subject matter
 Much of Picasso’s artwork was removed from the country and taken to America to preserve it. The civilian evacuation was almost nonexistent.
 At this time Picasso started drawing cartoons which he dated incredibly precisely
 Subject matter of his cartoons,
 Picasso was worried his painting was too big, he had never done anything that size before and didn’t know where to start, so he didn’t. Everyone else was worried the war was getting out of control
 Date of Guernica’s destruction, Picasso became inspired after being void of ideas for some time.
 Picasso was late for the Art exhibition Guernica was commissioned for, was going to give it up entirely, and allegedly never finished but submitted it anyway.
 Paris International exhibition
 Headline from a US newspaper article in 1938
 The way Guernica was transported, contained, made easy
 Contrast between death and the painting of it.