PICASSO & WAR.
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Spanish artist's reactions to war as expressed in "Guernica," "Charnel House" & "Massacre in Korea."... More...
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Spanish artist's reactions to war as expressed in "Guernica," "Charnel House" & "Massacre in Korea."
This paper will be concerned with Pablo Picasso's reactions to war. During the First World War, Picasso did not directly address the theme of war in his paintings. Rather, the violence and brutality of the war were symbolized in his artistic style itself. After 1920, and particularly after the Second World War, the horrors of war were increasingly used as subject matter in Picasso's works. Some of Picasso's greatest works dating from the 1930s through the 1950s, such as Guernica (1937), Charnel House (1944), Massacre in Korea (1951), and the War panel in the Temple of Peace (1952), show the dehumanization process which occurs when innocent men, women and children are subjected to war. This paper will discuss these works, with the point of view that they adequately capture the essence of the tragedy of war. By the time of the First World War, Picasso had made his
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When the war broke out,Picasso expressed his concern over the situation; however, he also claimedthat war had no place in art and was instead "a business for soldiers"(Penrose 2 ). New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1988.Myers, Bernard S. . . Picasso: Creator and Destroyer. 1958. During that time, Picasso claimed: "I did notpaint the war . Just asthe Guernica mural was inspired by an actual event, Charnel House wasinspired by the World War II concentration camps and Massacre in Korea wasinspired by America's entry into the Korean War. Art of Our Century: The Chronicle of Western Art, 19 to the Present. Picassodepicted the innocent victims as distorted, naked, suffering figures. For example, the top of thepainting shows a bright light bulb with rays extending from it. Also like Guernica,Charnel House was painted only in black, white and gray. As a result of thisbombing, the entire town was destroyed and thousands of innocent civilians,including women and children, were massacred. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.----------------------- 8 There are a number of similarities to be found in comparingMassacre in Korea with both Guernica and Charnel House. The event that inspiredPicasso's first great statement on war was the April 1937 bombing ofGuernica, a small Basque town in the countryside of Spain. Thus,the work as a whole is "black, gray, and white, like the photos of themassacre, sent from Spain by telephoto, and like the huge black and whiteheadlines announcing the killing in the papers" (Ferrier 357). He was preoccupied instead with purelyartistic ideas and with his creation of a new visual style in the form ofCubism. In June of that year, Picasso completed the mural, whichwas part of the wall for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris InternationalExposition. Berkeley: University of California, 1981.Stassinopoulos-Huffington, Arianna. Unlike his other paintings which depict thehorrors of war, Picasso's War panel makes use of vivid colors. But there is no doubt that the waris there in the pictures which I painted then" (Stassinopoulos-Huffington26 -261). The War painting, on the other hand,shows the opposite spectrum of life with its dark colors and violentimages. . New York: Prentice-Hall, 1989.Gregory, Clive, and Sue Lyon, eds. This serves as an ironic contrast to thestarvation and degradation suffered by the concentration camp victims. Picasso's life and career were dramatically disrupted by the adventof World War II in the late 193 s. In 1952, Picasso paintedtwo huge panels for the Temple of Peace, one entitled War, and the otherentitled Peace. The work, simply entitled Guernica, is a huge, dramaticstatement on the tragedy of innocent lives caught up in war. This paper will be concerned with Pablo Picasso's reactions to war.During the First World War, Picasso did not directly address the theme ofwar in his paintings. Before this time,he had been solely concerned with the development of a new style in art.After the bombing of Guernica, however, Picasso began to be concerned withmaking a social commentary about war in some of his works. For example, thework is done mostly in black, white and gray, although it may be noted thatthis 1951 work also includes some shades of green and brown in thebackground. because I am not one of those artists who go lookingfor a subject like a photographer . Works CitedFerrier, Jean-Louis, ed. Atthe top of the painting, Picasso depicted ameal with a pitcher of wine. A central image in thepainting is the black hearse containing a group of hideous creatures thatlook like insects. In 1937, Picasso was compelled to respond to the tragedies of warwhen the Spanish town of Guernica was bombed and its innocent citizens weremassacred. In this respect, it is ironicthat the bulb itself provides the light which is cast over the sufferingfigures below it. Great Artists of the Western World: Abstract Artists. At that time,Spain was involved in a civil war which was a prelude to World War II.General Francisco Franco, leader of the Fascist Party in Spain, led a raidon Guernica with the help of Hitler's air forces. Although Picasso was strongly opposed to the war and itscost in human lives, he did not express that in his paintings of the time.In fact, it was not until the late 193 s that Picasso was finally driven toexpress his reactions to war in a major work. Art and Civilization. Picasso: His Life and Work. At first, General Francotried to cover up this atrocity; however, newspapers throughout Europe soonstarted printing stories and photographs of it (Gregory and Lyon 1 3). . American troops intervened inthe conflict, with the idea of saving South Korea from the threat ofCommunism. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.Penrose, Roland. This paper will discuss theseworks, with the point of view that they adequately capture the essence ofthe tragedy of war. The subjectmatter of the painting is a pile of dead bodies, in which the figure of awoman and a child can clearly be seen. The Peace panel depicts pleasant scenes, with animals innature and dancing human figures. Theseinclude the black in the silhouetted-figures, hearse, and horses, as wellas the dark red blood on one of the warrior's knives and the bright yellowof the fire surrounding the burning book. War shows a number of warrior figures holding spears, swords,knives, hatchets, and other instruments of destruction. Inaddition, he established the convention of painting those figures and theirsurroundings in the harsh, bleak tones of black, gray and white. The suffering of innocent victims in war is 'dramaticallydepicted by a group of soldiers firing their guns at close range into agroup of women and children. In the early 195 s, Picasso was again moved to respond to the wartimekilling of innocent victims. In 1944, Picasso painted Charnel House, a workwhich is reminiscent of Hitler's extermination of the Jews in theconcentration camps. In May of 1937, onemonth after the Guernica tragedy, Picasso announced that he was working ona new mural in which he would "express my abhorrence of the military castewhich has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death" (Stassinopoulos-Huffington 232). Although Massacre in Korea was painted inresponse to the brutalities of the Korean War, it is not a specificstatement about that war but is rather a general statement pertaining tothe tragedy of all wars. These images include a screaming woman, amother with a dead child, a dismembered man, an agonized horse(representing the Spanish people), and a triumphant bull (representing theFascist invaders) (Myers 389). When Hitler began to invade EasternEurope, Picasso decided to leave his residence in Paris to continue hiswork in the countryside. In the course of his career as a painter, Picasso made a number ofpictorial commentaries on the atrocities of war in the modern age.Although Picasso was strongly opposed to the First World War and the deathand destruction which it caused, he did not make any direct statements onthe war in his work of that time. In 1951, Picassopainted Massacre in Korea, which served as his reaction to America's rolein the war, as well as to the loss of innocent lives. By the time of the First World War, Picasso had made his mark on theart world through the development of Cubism. Picasso's use ofblack, white and gray captures the bleakness and despair of war. After 192 , and particularlyafter the Second World War, the horrors of war were increasingly used assubject matter in Picasso's works. This ideais also carried out by the use of simulated newsprint in the body of thehorse which forms the central figure in the painting. As such, "the scene could take place anywhere, atany time: Robot men shooting a group of naked men and women as childrenflee--the action belongs to all times" (Ferrier 486). Picasso used other stark, bleak images tocapture the anguish of war in Guernica. However, there is onenotable work from the World War II period which shows Picasso's reaction tothe horrors of that war. Because he had first learned about the Guernica massacre fromnewspaper accounts, Picasso painted the mural in black and white. Theimages in Picasso's Guernica are all distorted in ways which express theviolence and horror of war. Inaddition to using a broader range of colors, War also differs fromPicasso's earlier war paintings in that it covers a broader range ofsymbolic images as related to the destruction and horror of war. Another work from the early 195 s in which Picasso made a generalstatement about war is the War panel which was commissioned for the Templeof Peace (Temple de la Paix) in Vallauris, Spain. In contrast to Picasso's earlier war paintings, this panel was notinspired by a specific wartime atrocity but rather by the theme of war ingeneral. However, the War panel inthe Temple of Peace differs from these in 'that it depicts not a specificevent but rather war itself in the most general and symbolic terms. In 195 , Communist forces from North Koreainvaded Seoul, the capital of South Korea. For the first time in his career, Picasso felt strongly that heshould use his art to speak out against such atrocities. Like Guernica, this work was motivated by a responseto the tragedy of innocent victims destroyed by war. Before long, the entire nation was engaged in a bloody war inwhich thousands of innocent civilians were killed. In the lower leftportion of the canvas, a burning book can be seen. Most of thesefigures are shown only as frightening silhouettes. Picasso saw some of the newspaper accounts on the bombing of Guernicaand was moved to use the tragic event as a subject for one of hispaintings. In the late193 s, Picasso claimed that the destruction of Guernica had made himrealize that "artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot andshould not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values ofhumanity and civilization are at stake" (Penrose 316). The arrangement of the bodies in apile is an obvious reference to the way in which the Nazis piled up thebodies of their victims after exterminating them in the gas chambers. Rather, the violence and brutality of the war weresymbolized in his artistic style itself. The Guernica mural painted by Picasso established the basicideas that would be found in his later war paintings as well. Because ofthe rays and its position, the light bulb seems to represent the sun.However, as an electric light, it is also a symbol of modern technology.Thus, the glaring light bulb in Guernica is symbolic of the bombs droppingfrom the sky onto the citizens of the town. It has been noted that war itself is symbolized by thishearse "drawn by four horses, which trot over the books of civilization andculture" (Ferrier 515). Some of Picasso's greatest works datingfrom the 193 s through the 195 s, such as Guernica (1937), Charnel House(1944), Massacre in Korea (1951), and the War panel in the Temple of Peace(1952), show the dehumanization process which occurs when innocent men,women and children are subjected to war. When he first heardabout American intervention in South Korea, "Picasso, primarily forhumanitarian reasons, as one who hated war, again felt himself involved"(Penrose 373). As in his earlier Cubist period, which coincided with the FirstWorld War, Picasso's work during the Second World War used violence as aform of expression rather than as subject matter. As in the other two works, the figures in Massacre in Koreaare distorted and naked, thereby symbolizing both their agony and theirhumiliation.
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