Search This Blog

Friday, 21 May 2010

Exhibition - Picasso - Peace + Freedom - Tate Liverpool

Star rating – 8/10

This new exhibition featuring hundreds of pieces by Picasso gives a different focus to the great man than perhaps we are used to thinking about – that of the political radical. The obvious elephant in the room here though, is his magnificent Guernica, showing the destruction and massacre of the Basque town by Franco’s forces.

Picasso was quite the radical, as well as the womaniser we are perhaps more familiar with, joining the French Communist Party in 1944, and remaining a member until his death in 1973. This fascinating collection shows just how strong his desire was for peace and freedom. He clearly viewed art as a means of liberation.

The exhibition begins with some tributes by him to the Spanish republicans who died fighting in the French resistance. The shocking ‘Charnel House’ of 1944 represents the murder of Spanish republican families in their own homes, and his mass of tangled bodies remains unfinished. But then he was not particularly worried about that and said that ‘only death finishes something’.

His many still life drawings feature disturbing skulls in amongst everyday objects such as leeks and pitchers. And his iconic and beautifully simple depiction of a dove was taken up as a powerful campaigning symbol by the world peace movement. Apparently the original dove was actually a pigeon, given to Picasso by his friend Matisse. His dove was taken up and used by the first World Congress of the Partisans for World Peace in Paris in 1949 (the second was in Sheffield of all places in 1950 in case you were wondering).

There is also a large selection of drawings from his preparation for his large murals ‘War and Peace’. His depictions of the women of Algiers show his empathy for the nationalist uprising there in 1954. One charcoal drawing in particular of the 22 year old Djamila Boupasha, who was arrested and subjugated to brutality at the hands of the French troops whilst accused of planting a bomb, is particularly moving.

Picasso shows how strongly he felt about all the major works conflicts, from the threat of a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, to his variations on the iconic Spanish masterpiece Las Meninas, which show his hatred of Franco’s dictatorship. And this is a very interesting exhibition, but when you have been lucky enough to see his masterpiece of the condemnation of war and brutality in the guise of the Guernica in Madrid, as I have, then anything else is just second best – although Picasso’s second best beats most of the rest hands down.

No comments:

Post a Comment