Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

27
THE RESISTANCE
1940-1944

Picasso felt that he was faced with circumstances of virtually unprecedented difficulty. Guernica was, despite all the differences, a modern translation of Goya's Tres de Mayo. And in 1937 there had been a war with a front line between good and evil, between the future of humanity and the death of art. Now the ideas he believed in had been defeated. In France, as in Spain, there was no more "front line," and one had to refuse defeat, refuse to accept it, as an internal matter, within the self. What could he paint or sculpt now that would have meaning and direction? That would be something more than a simple five-finger exercise or reflex action?

At his side Dora felt even more crushed than he, because she had been more politically active. He and Dora were perhaps never closer than during that first, cold winter in the Grands-Augustins studio. Éluard and Nusch were back in Paris, and his intimate friendship with them was resumed. They all sat up together to see the new year in. This closeness was to have considerable consequences. As soon as the German-Russian war in June 1941 had clarified the situation, Éluard made contact with the Communist Resistance. He joined the clandestine Communist party in 1942. The Zervoses had resumed their work at Cahiers d'Art and gave Éluard a room at their house in Vézelay. They edited volume 2 of the Picasso catalogue, devoted to his Cubist work, and Christian Zervos printed it in 1942. For the first time, Picasso saw himself as someone with a large past and no present. The Nazis made inventories of the safe-deposit boxes at the bank, and Picasso was present when his were opened. Fortunately his paintings struck the inspectors as pointless daubs; any echoes of Cézanne or Renoir escaped them.

A literature of Resistance—some of it legal—and occasional exhibitions of paintings in styles condemned by the Nazis or by Vichy managed to maintain a sporadic existence. This was for the most part due to the ignorance of the police in questions of art (and sometimes, although less often, to the complicity of certain German intellectuals). In the autumn of 1940 John Hemming Fry, an old American with Fascist leanings, published the first attack on Picasso in a pamphlet called Art décadent sous le règne

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