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Picasso, painting as a weapon of war

Picasso and exile, a history of Spanish art in resistance. The Abattoirs, Toulouse

Picasso and the war, Army Museum, Hotel des Invalides, Paris

What's up ? Picasso! In 2019, it remains the safe haven of museums, the assurance of receiving a record number of visitors, attracted by the enigma of this protean work. Two major exhibitions are sharing the poster, this spring, in Paris and Toulouse, around the report to the war and the exile of this Spanish painter died in France in 1973, without ever having seen his native land.

For the 80e anniversary of the Retirada

In the city that served as a refuge for the Republicans, in the heart of the working-class district where they had gathered, the conservators of the Abattoirs organize, for the 80e anniversary of the Retirada – exodus of 500,000 people – a rich and fascinating retrospective on Picasso's relationship with exile. His and those of uprooted artists, many of whom have passed through sinister camps.

The overabundance of Picasso exhibitions

Where we learn, in the middle of their works opposite, that the painter of Guernica has done a lot to help them. "We searched the archives, pulled threads in all directions, to establish connections that now strike by their evidence"says Annabelle Ténèze, the director of this museum that launches a bridge from the past to contemporary Spanish creation.

A way of the cross executed by refugees to thank the inhabitants and the priest of Septfonds (Tarn-et-Garonne) occupies a central place in the first room. With a focus on artistic activity as a means of survival in the camps.

"Picasso also had a special connection with Toulouse", recalls Valentin Rodriguez, curator and artistic director of this abundant exhibition. In 1965, he offered to the capital of exiles his monumental stage curtain, commanded by the Popular Front, for the July 14th Romain Rolland, The Minotaur's Skin in Harlequin's Costume, found majestically at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

The figure of the Minotaur, his reinterpretation of the Meninas, his corrida pictures prove that, like all the exiles, he had kept the melancholy of his country. On April 22, 1939, when Franco closed the border, Picasso painted a cat devouring the dove of peace.

This dove occupies a good place in the exhibition of the Museum of the Army to the Invalides, in Paris, on all the wars that knew Picasso, without participating actively. And how the Guernica trauma, then the tragedy of the refugees, lead him to a steeper slope against the war that will result in his joining the Communist Party.

Two epochs separated and connected by a footbridge in the sober and clever scenography, declined in six chronological sequences, bordered by a series of works and illustrations which confront the creations of Picasso with the tragic events of XXe century. She strains the link between her first drawings, scenes of battle, where the next genius breaks through, to the last painting presented, executed at 91, where a child rubs a bearded and aging musketeer, great figure of the end of his life.

Among the objects reported, the report of the police prefecture cataloging anarchist decisive piece that will prevent it from being naturalized. Like the one in Toulouse, the exhibition of the Invalides challenges "the silence of Picasso", too often described as an artist folded on his sentimental and worldly life. She recalls that he gravitated in the heart of an intellectual nebula and was concerned about the fate of his unfortunate compatriots.

Inner exile in his workshop of the Grands-Augustins

Certainly, during the Second World War, the painter isolates himself in his workshop of the Grands-Augustins, "His inner exile", points out Vincent Giraudier, one of the curators, where comes the bronze sculpture of The man with the sheep. In 1944, with the approach of the D-Day, Vichy propaganda locked Picasso in his nauseating crusade against "Degenerate Judeo-Bolshevik art".

Passing under a vault reminiscent of the chapel of Vallauris, the Army Museum follows the path of his dove of peace, with stylized features, abundantly used and diverted. "No, painting," Picasso rebelled, "is not made to decorate the apartments, it is an offensive and defensive instrument of war against the enemy. "

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