Picasso : Peace and Freedom / Exhibition at the Albertina Vienna
Peace and Freedom
22 September 2010 – 16 January 2011
The exhibition Picasso: Peace and Freedom shows the twentieth century’s most important painter from a hitherto almost unknown perspective: in cooperation with Tate Liverpool, the Albertina presents Pablo Picasso as a politically and socially committed artist, thereby questioning the common image of this genius of a century.
The Charnel House, Paris 1944-1945
Oil and charcoal on canvas
The Museum of Modern Art New York. Mrs. Sam A. Lewisohn Bequest (by exchange) and Mrs. Marya Bernard Fund in memory of her husband Dr. Bernard Bernard and anonymous funds. © Succession Picasso/VBK, Vienna 2010 © 2009 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art New York/Scala, Florence.
Assembling some two hundred exhibits from more than sixty international collections, the exhibition illustrates within a historical review and in chronological order how Picasso responded to the war and its atrocities in his art. The exhibition’s scope ranges from Picasso as a history painter and his key motif of the Dove of Peace – one of the most important symbols of hope and the most famous emblem of the Peace Movement – to his still lifes, which contain subtle and hidden commentaries on global events, as well as hints of Picasso’s political attitude.
In 1944, Picasso joined the French Communist Party, whose loyal member he remained until his death in 1973. That same year, Picasso set to work on the painting The Charnel House, which marks the beginning of the Albertina’s exhibition. Based on a documentary about the murder of a Spanish Republican family, it is one of artist’s most important paintings protesting against Franco’s regime in Spain apart from Guernica.
The major global crises of those days – the Spanish Civil War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War, and the Algerian War of Independence – run through the artist’s oeuvre like a red thread. Only a few days after the outbreak of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when President Kennedy announced the naval blockade, Picasso set to work on his series The Rape of the Sabine Women, drawing his inspirations from Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabines from 1637/38 and Jacques-Louis David’s The Intervention of the Sabine Women from 1799. With his liberal paraphrases on this serious crisis of the Roman Empire, Picasso addressed the impending catastrophe of a Third World War and nuclear Armageddon.
The Rape of the Sabine Women (after David), Mougins, 2-4 November 1962
Oil on canvas
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel © Succession Picasso/VBK, Vienna 2010. Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel
To the Algerian War of Independence he responded with his Women of Algiers, on which he began to work within the first month of this major violent conflict by referring to the work of the same name by Eugène Delacroix. Whereas the latter’s Women of Algiers of 1834 marked the beginning of French colonization in Algeria, Picasso’s variations symbolize the end of the country’s foreign rule.
The Dove of Peace, created in 1949, likewise holds a prominent position in the exhibition. It became an international emblem used by the Peace Movement and a symbol of hope during the Cold War. Many works by Picasso from that period explicitly served propaganda purposes and were meant to support the Communist cause and the Peace Movement.
Goat’s Head , 14 May 1952
Aquatint with sugarlift
Albertina, Vienna © Succession Picasso/VBK, Vienna 2010
Dove (La Colombe), 1949
Lithograph on paper
Tate © Succession Picasso/VBK, Vienna 2010
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition views Picasso’s oeuvre created during the era of the Cold War from a contemporary perspective and illustrates how the artist defied the ideological and aesthetic ideals of both the East and West.
Courtesy Albertina Wien
Images © Succession Picasso/VBK, Vienna 2010