Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

War Paint: Sue Hubbard Explores the Politics of the 20th Century's Greatest Artist

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

War Paint: Sue Hubbard Explores the Politics of the 20th Century's Greatest Artist

Article excerpt

Picasso: Peace and Freedom

Tate Liverpool

This fascinating exhibition attempts to present Picasso as a politically engaged artist. Until now, his political commitments have been one of the most underexplored areas of his life and work, but new scholarship, based on a little-studied file labelled "Political Correspondence sent to Picasso" held at the Musee National Picasso in Paris, has yielded a rich vein of material. Revealed are his generous donations to African, Muslim and Jewish causes, as well as his support for the refugees of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, striking miners in northern France, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, executed in the US for passing on atomic secrets to the USSR.

It was the Spanish civil war that politicised Picasso. In the 1920s, his close friend and dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler described him as "the most apolitical man I have ever known", but by 1944 he had joined the French Communist Party and remained a member until his death in 1973.

At Tate Liverpool, Picasso is reframed as a "history painter". After the success of Guernica in 1937 came The Charnel House (1945), based on a short documentary film about a Spanish Republican family slaughtered in their kitchen. …

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