At the age of 25, he had revolutionized the art world with a painting with a French name but which made reference to a brothel in Barcelona. The Ladies of Avignon o de Avinyó street transformed the art world to the point of being considered the beginning of modern art. Picasso eliminated form and perspective to create something never seen before. Right angles, members of the body that seem to have been cut by a machine, and faces that range from the animalistic to African masks, passing through the Iberian art of the peninsula. The five primitive-looking prostitutes painted in 1907 suggested the cubism that he developed years later. Fifty years after his death, he may be the most universal and internationally recognizable Spanish artist. Nor are there many other artists who can be considered parents of a certain style like Picasso with cubism, although he was not the only progenitor of one of the most influential currents of the last century.
Since he was a child he proved to be gifted for drawing, a gift that was reinforced by the profession of his father, an artist and drawing teacher. Stories about his childhood describe a boy drawing almost compulsively and that at the age of eight he painted his first oil painting, The yellow chopper, a bullfight in his native Malaga. With his father as his first teacher, Picasso is burning formative stages in a dizzying way.
Almost forty years after that first bullfight, Picasso, now the most important artist in the world, paints another bull, the most recognized in the history of art, which looks at the viewer in the midst of a chaos of torn bodies and women devastated by the destruction of war. Along the way, blue, black, surrealism styles and stages had passed… But cubism will be his most lasting legacy with a shared paternity with Georges Braque. This new style sought to represent reality from different simultaneous perspectives, superimposing and fragmenting forms to create a more complete and dynamic image. Thus, in the image of a face, an eye could be painted seen from one profile, the nose seen from the other, and the mouth seen from the front.
History of Guernica
Along with cubism, Guernica will be Picasso’s great legacy, an immense painting in every sense that has become a symbol of the terror of wars. The absence of specific details of the bombing allows any person, any injustice, any painful episode to find its reflection in Picasso’s work. “The eternity of suffering” of which the German art historian Ingo F. Walther spoke. “It is a hieroglyphic turned into an icon,” said art critic Fernando Castro. A few years ago, a hoax went viral on WhatsApp and social networks, riddled with errors, which claimed that Guernica was a tribute to the bullfighter Sánchez Mejías. The absence of explicit references and the author’s refusal to explain the meaning has given rise to endless theories.
The artist had been against finding meaning in any element of an artistic work: “In all objects and actions you want to find meaning. It is a disease of our time that, despite doing many nonsense things itself, nevertheless believes itself more sensible than any other time.
But the work had a very specific purpose, to support the government of the Second Republic. Since the coup d’état of July 1936, which started the Civil War, the Republic was in a desperate situation, unable to obtain weapons and aircraft from other democratic governments such as the French and British. The non-intervention pacts had suspended trade with the Republic and the President of the Government, the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero, had appointed Luis Araquistáin ambassador in Paris, with the main objective of reversing this commercial suffocation. Therefore, the 1937 Paris International Exposition was presented as an ideal showcase to show the needs of the republican government, and at the beginning of that year, Picasso was commissioned to paint a large mural for the pavilion.
The Government of the Republic paid 200,000 marks for this and other works that would be exhibited in the pavilion. On occasions, the large economic sum has been insisted on to try to subtract a true political commitment from the artist, which he undoubtedly had with the Republic and against Franco, which he expressed on several occasions with words and deeds. At that time, the man from Malaga was the most important painter in the world and did not accept commissions. The same sources that mention 200,000 francs point to the artist’s reluctance to charge for the work. In addition, for the exhibition, Picasso also made a large print run of the ‘Dream and lie of Franco’ engravings, in which the military man was caricatured and intended to raise funds for the Government.
Picasso died in 1973 and Guernica did not return to Spain until 1981, the painter had ordered that the painting not return to the country until democratic freedoms had been recovered.
Picasso and women
The most controversial aspect of the figure of the painter has been his relationship with women. In recent years, multiple voices have been raised demanding that the institutions make this matter known. Some protests against the painter have also been organized, such as the one in June 2021 at the Picasso museum in Barcelona itself, when art and feminism students from the Massana School in Barcelona they entered the museum with slogans emblazoned on their T-shirts such as “Picasso the shadow of Dora Maar”, “Picasso Maltratador” or “Picasso is Antonio David Flores”.
The darkest aspects come from the denunciations of having mistreated some of his partners, both physically and psychologically. One of his muses, the artist Dora Maar, suffered from depression and anxiety due to her relationship with the artist, and the painter Françoise Gilot, with whom Picasso had two children, also spoke about the mistreatment she suffered during her relationship with the artist.
During the presentation of the program that will celebrate the anniversary of the artist’s death, the French Minister of Culture, Abdul Malak, claimed the importance of knowing the most “violent” aspects of the painter, in relation to women: “I think it is It is very important to have a reinterpretation of Picasso’s work.In fact, the Brooklyn Museum exhibition will focus on Picasso’s relationship with women. I think it is important that the public get to know Picasso better and also get to know the part of violence that was in him, we must not cover it up. I think it is our role to allow the complexity of the work to be better understood and to address all its aspects. I believe in the confrontation of points of view and in the debate,” said the French minister.