Blackpaint 137


Quote from Picasso in today’s Guardian (article by Adrian Searle on new exhibition in Liverpool, which focuses on his political commitment to Communist Party):  “Painting is not made to decorate houses, … It is an instrument of offensive and defensive war against the enemy.”  I’ve learnt this by heart, and now I’m awaiting the chance to jump in with it; next time I hear someone say “I quite like that, but the blue won’t go with the curtains” – I’ll be in there.

To tell the truth, Picasso’s political commitment doesn’t sound to me like a hugely interesting aspect of his life and certainly not of his art.  Not to deny the emotional impact of the painting, I think he had already developed the motifs and tropes he displayed in “Guernica” in his previous work.  The same can be said, it seems to me, of “Charnel House” and “Massacre in Korea”. 

Apart from the painting?  Searle points out that “He handed over suitcases of cash.  He protested the death by electric chair of the Rosenbergs…he made his only trip to the UK to attend a peace conference in Sheffield in 1950 (and)..was detained by immigration officials for 12 hours”.  Apart from the cash – of which he had plenty – this is not a great deal really, is it?

Elsewhere, Searle itemises some of the photographs on show: “Picasso listening intently to speeches at a peace conference in Poland; Picasso with Soviet officials; Picasso staring at a photograph of Stalin”.  He describes this (ironically, I presume) as “fascinating stuff”.

Searle says that Picasso “spent almost half his life in exile in France after the civil war” and  “he refused to return to Spain while Franco was alive”.  However, he had lived in Paris for many years before the civil war, did not fight in the civil war and only joined the French Communist party in 1944 “along with many other French intellectuals and artists”.  The idea of him as a political being in any sense other than a dilettante strikes me as rather thin.

This is not to denigrate him; great artist, undisputable genius, standing in same relation to “modern art” as, say, Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker to jazz (maybe both).  and he did paint “Guernica” – that should be enough.

Banks of the Nile by Blackpaint

Listening to the Banks of the Nile, trad., by Sandy Denny and Fotheringay.

“Oh hark, the drums do beat my love, no longer can we stay,

The bugle horns are sounding clear, and we must march away;

We’re ordered down to Portsmouth and it’s many the weary mile,

To join the British army on the banks of the Nile.”



Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: