Picasso and Human Rights


Picasso and Human Rights
by Fartash

Picasso’s relationships with women were always an important element of his art and were heatedly discussed by the public during his lifetime. His love affairs at various times were echoed in many of his works. It is notable that most of his pictures represent women, and it seems as though Picasso could “see himself only when reflected in a woman” (as the English critic John Berger observed in 1973).

Picasso remained neutral during World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, refusing to fight for any side or country. Some of his contemporaries felt that his pacifism had more to do with cowardice than principle. An article in The New Yorker called him “a coward, who sat out two world wars while his friends were suffering and dying”.

In 1944 Picasso joined the French Communist Party, attended an international peace conference in Poland, and in 1950 received the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet government. But party criticism of a portrait of Stalin as insufficiently realistic cooled Picasso’s interest in communist politics, though he remained a loyal member of the Communist Party until his death.

In a 1945 interview with Jerome Seckler, Picasso stated: “I am a Communist and my painting is Communist painting. … But if I were a shoemaker, Royalist or Communist or anything else, I would not necessarily hammer my shoes in a special way to show my politics.”

Picasso’s relationship with the Communist Party was brief. The free, disruptive spirit of the artist, who demands total autonomy for his art, was unveiling to submit to Party guidelines; and for their part the communists never really accepted his style since it could not be easily adapted to their own purposes. These differences soon became insurmountable.

Picasso’s monumental mural Guernica is a record of the terrors and suffering of war. It was painted when Picasso heard of the bombing of the sacred town of the Basques, Guernica, on April 26, 1937. On that day, air force unites under German leadership destroyed the small Spanish town within few hours, in support of General Franci and his associated, who were conducting a coup against the lawful government of spain. After its destruction, and largely as a result of Picasso’s famous picture, Guernica became a powerful symbol of the brutal Spanish Civil War.

“In the wall painting on which I am working, and which I am going to call Guernica, and in all my latest works, I am openly declaring my revulsion against military caste which has submerged Spain into an ocean of suffering and death.” Picasso told.

After American forces moved into Korea he painted the accusatory Massacre in Korea, in which, in simple pictorial language, he placed good and evil in opposition to each other in a vivid and unmistakable way.

He was against the intervention of the United Nations and the United States in the Korean War and he depicted it in Massacre in Korea. Several of his pictures from this period have a clear political content, but altogether the group of overtly political works within his total output is very small.

Asked to explain its symbolism, Picasso said, “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.”

Guernica hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art for many years. In 1981 Guernica was returned to Spain and exhibited at the Casón del Buen Retiro. In 1992 the painting hung in Madrid’s Reina Sofía Museum when it opened.

Still under the influence of the events in Korea, a little later Picasso rebuilt a 14th century chapel in Valarie as a so-called “Temple of Peace”.


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Jahanshah Javid

Women & politics

by Jahanshah Javid on

Thanks Fartash. You started with Picasso's relationship with women but after the first paragraph there was a shift to his political views and work. I couldn't make the connection. Interesting nevertheless.


Very nice read

by Monda on

Thanks Fartash.