Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Russell Martin: 'Picasso's War' (2002)

Russell Martin, Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece That Changed the World. New York: Dutton, 2002.

The way it's organized:
The Spanish Dead
Remembering the Bullring
Images Spilling from Fingers
Save Spain!
A Wearable Pair of Boots
The Last Refugee
Guernica in Gernika

Highly absorbing book, providing background, context, a detailed account of artistic creation, setting, display, impact, rescue, and ongoing installation.

We see why Picasso was moved to perform his artistic duties on behalf of the Spanish Republic, then under attack by Nazi and fascist-backed brutes from 1936 until 1939. Martin shows how Picasso's response to the German-Italian air assault against Guernica on April 26, 1937 led to the creation of his Guernica masterpiece.  

A vivid account of the bombing, how word of it spread (and was also denied by the usual suspects), and how Picasso's work was displayed at the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Expo, the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life) that ran later in 1937. At this utterly surreal expo, giant German Nazi architecture ranged against Soviet symbols, even as German and Italian military forces and equipment faced off against Soviet equipment and advisers in the ongoing Spanish Civil War. 

Most of Europe would be engulfed in the Second World War before the decade of the 1930s was out, but only after Spain was left to burn to the ground.     

Picasso's War includes still-current debates over modern Spanish life, identity and policy. The aspirations of people in the Basque region and Catalonia are notably included. 

Since 1992, Madrid has been hosting Guernica in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; but not without a fight and the creation of a proposed alternate venue at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Basque country. 

I've seen the original Guernica at the Reina Sofía in Madrid and the huge tapestry copy at United Nations headquarters in New York City.  Now I'd like to visit Balboa and, of course, sacred Guernica (Gernika), both in Euskadi, Basque country. 

Here is the author's tribute to his teacher-friend and mentor Angel Vilalta: "Angel continually demonstrated that the best kinds of men were inquisitive and energetic, courageous yet compassionate, attuned to the breadth of the world's worries and pleasures but also equally focused on family and friends." (page 187). 

Today's Rune: Growth. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't been keeping up with it much but it sounds as if Spain is having some more civil unrest as we speak.

the walking man said...

I am of a mind that of people do not consider themselves a part of a nation, have a functioning government, and the means to support themselves they should federate and work towards independence. The Kurds, the Basques, the Catalonians--it may work out yet for the split in the Sudan. The world is changing once again--perhaps nations should remove the boot from the neck of them wanting a homeland they feel comfortable in running.