Pablo Picasso’s anti-fascism

This 8 April 2017 video is called Pablo Picasso‘s Fight Against Fascism.

The joy of discovery, the pleasure of the unexpected. CHRISTINE LINDEY explores the enduring appeal of Pablo Picasso.

Picasso, doves and peace

This music video from Britain says about itself:

The making of “Dove of Peace: Homage to Picasso”

In May 2010 Ensemble 10/10 performed the world premiere of the new Clarinet concerto, “Dove of Peace: Homage to Picasso” by the acclaimed Spanish composer Benet Casablancas. Watch this short documentary about the work’s relevance and background, and links to Picasso: Peace and Freedom at Tate Liverpool (21 May to 31 August 2010). This video include interviews with the key representatives involved with the commission, including Benet Casablancas, Andrew Cornall, Artistic Director of Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Christoph Grunenberg, Director of Tate Liverpool.

You can watch the entire performance by RLPO Principal Clarinet, Nicholas Cox, with Ensemble 10/10,in two parts here.

From BirdLife:

Flight of Fancy – Picasso and the dove called Peace

By John Fanshawe, 14 Oct 2016

When the author, Louis Aragon, chose Pablo Picasso’s lithograph, La Colombe (The Dove), for a poster commemorating the Paris Peace Conference in 1949, he was building on the artist’s complex relationship with both doves and peace. Picasso’s father, José Ruiz y Blasco, was an artist in Malaga, and specialised in paintings of doves and pigeons.

The birds had featured in Picasso’s work since childhood when he often took his pet pigeons to school and drew them. An early Parisian work, Child Holding a Dove, 1901, was painted when the artist was just 19. For many people, however, it is Picasso’s deceptively simple line drawings of doves that are the most memorable and symbolic celebrations of peace, and their genesis lies in an infamous act of war. On 26 April 1937, Picasso had been living in Paris for almost 40 years. Late that afternoon, German and Italian aircraft attacked the Basque town of Guernica – a frontline of republican resistance to Spanish dictator Franco. Crowded both for market day, and with throngs of refugees from the civil war, the aerial bombing devastated the town, and killed a large number of non-combatants.

A year before, Picasso had been commissioned by Spain to create a work for the country’s pavilion at the Paris International Exposition. As reports of the outrage circulated, notably from George Steer, the Times reporter, the bombing caused an international uproar. Within a fortnight, Picasso began a painting that has become an iconic symbol of war protest. Until then, though his work invariably provoked powerful reactions, it had not been outwardly political. With its scale, Guernica is a devastating black, grey and white work full of fractured ruin, fire, and figures, both people, and the totemic domestic symbols for Spain, the bull and horse.

Picasso remained in Paris throughout the Nazi occupation, and though Guernica was safely in the US, it was the painting that crystalised his involvement in the post-war peace movement. In the spring of 1949, his then-wife, Françoise Gilot, gave birth to their second child, and they called her Paloma, Spanish for dove, perhaps responding to the numerous peace posters bearing Picasso’s first ‘peace dove’. The bird itself had been a gift from his friend, Henri Matisse, who is shown in a photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson clasping one of his own birds. From that first figurative lithograph, a wealth of line drawings grew of doves, often carrying sprigs of leaves, or surrounded with flowers, or alongside faces, often mantling them with their wings. In 1950, Picasso visited the Peace Congress in Sheffield, UK. Asked to speak there, he recalled how his father had taught him to paint doves, and finished with the words, ‘I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war’. Even now, the World Peace Council has a Picasso dove as its emblem, a legacy built from childhood, from war, from friendship, and the simple gift of a bird from one great artist to another.

Pablo Picasso’s artistic holiday in Holland

Pablo Picasso, La belle Hollandaise

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

How peasant girls and Dutch dunes inspired Picasso

Today, 20:50

He rarely went on vacation, but in 1905 he clearly needed it. The 23-year-old Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) fled the heat and bustle of Paris. To this rare vacation the Alkmaar Municipal Museum is dedicating an exhibition.

Picasso was staying for several weeks in Schoorl, at the cottage of his acquaintance Tom Schilperoort. He knew the Dutchman from Paris. The self-styled bohemian and journalist had seen it correctly: Picasso craved inspiration.

Cheese market

He worked on his famous Famille de Saltimbanques. The composition and the background he did not like, but how should he change that? He was not sure yet. With in his luggage a sketchbook, brush and some paint he took the train and in Alkmaar he got out. Probably in June and almost certainly on a Friday when the cheese market is.

Pyramids of cheese: he will remember them years later in amazement. Just like the Dutch women. Tall and glowing with health.

Picasso walked through Alkmaar. “It was a provincial town where the farmers did their shopping,” says historian Gerrit Valk, who has done years of research into the fascinating Holland weeks of the master. “There were many women in West Frisian costume.” White caps, skirts, clogs come back in the sketches that Picasso makes. As a tourist he draws the windmills, the stepped gables of the houses along the canals of Alkmaar and a visitor with a prostitute in a brothel in Alkmaar.

The cottage in Schoorl is gone, but there exists a picture of the interior with Schilperoort, Picasso and a certain Nelly. Most likely she was Petronella Timmer, who kept the cottages clean. In the seaside village Picasso is impressed by the light, the dunes and the color of the sand and arid pasture.

About the women he would say later that they rolled off the dunes. He probably has seen the traditional ‘girls market’, where the peasant girls danced and drank and rolled while flirting off the dunes they had climbed and started dating.

The summer-house was too stuffy for Picasso, so he rented a room in Schoorldam. He is found much in the local pub Lands Welvaren. There a special chair was bought for him without arm rests, as these bothered him while drawing. After the departure of Picasso the chair disappeared into the attic, but it remained in the family.

Recently, the Picasso chair was donated to the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar. This was for director Lidewij de Koekkoek the stimulus to make a long-cherished wish come true. To make a modest exhibition on the holiday of the world famous painter.

“This is a dream come true,” she says radiantly as the nude La Belle Hollandaise is unzipped with utmost care. An employee of the museum in Brisbane, Australia supervises and controls the work, every square centimeter of it, before it can hang. It is put alongside the other gouache Picasso made in West Friesland Les Trois Hollandaises from the Picasso Museum in Paris. We have to guess who the three women are. Possibly, it is always the same woman, but then in a different position.

Picasso, Les trois Hollandaises

Clothes off

Even more interesting would be to know who was the model for the nude. In prudish West Friesland a girl took her clothes off in front of Picasso and kept only her white lace cap on. Lidewij de Koekkoek sees the work for the first time and is moved by it. Now that it hangs, all sorts of details become remarkable. The dreamy look in her eyes. Was she in love? Was the Spanish painter her lover? And the way the girl bends the fingers of her hand, does she indicate that she is pregnant?

Picasso’s holiday in Holland lasted only a few weeks. But short as that was, the period had an influence on his development as an artist. After his return he finished the world famous painting of the acrobat family Famille de Saltimbanques. The background was changed: he put the circus artists in a dune landscape. In the background there are unmistakably dunes such as near the North Sea beach.

The exhibition Picasso in Holland is until 28 August at the Stedelijk Museum in Alkmaar.

Famille de saltimbanques, by Picasso

Picasso’s ceramics exhibition in Scheveningen: here.

Rupert Murdoch censors Pablo Picasso

Tiepolo, La Verità svelata dal Tempo, uncensored version

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister of Italy. He had become a rich man by television shows full of women with hardly any clothes on. Still, Berlusconi censored a painting by the 18th-century Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Berlusconi censored it because on that painting there was a woman (symbolizing Truth) with a naked breast. That breast was censored.

Berlusconi used to be friends with Rupert Murdoch then. Not anymore later. Like Rupert Murdoch also used to be pals with Tony Blair. But he also quarreled with Blair later.

Still, Murdoch has quite some things in common with Berlusconi. Including, as boss of Fox News, censoring women’s breasts from famous paintings.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Art critic rips ‘sexually sick conservatives’ after Fox channel blurs out breasts on Picasso painting

14 May 2015 at 15:06 ET

Lucy Westcott
Posted with permission from Newsweek

The Women of Algiers (Version “O”), a painting by Pablo Picasso, became the most expensive work to ever sell at an auction this week. Sadly, some TV viewers of a New York affiliate of Fox were treated to a blurry, G-rated version.

The painting, which sold for $179.4 million at Christie’s auction house in New York on Monday night, shows several female figures in the Cubist style, including several pairs of breasts and a couple of errant nipples. Fox 5, the Fox affiliate in New York City, obscured three pairs of breasts and covered up two nipples with a news banner at the bottom of the screen.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, in censored Rupert Murdoch version

The decision by Fox 5 to blur part of the female anatomy was blasted by Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, who took to Twitter on Wednesday night.

“How sexually sick are conservatives & Fox News? They blurred parts of the Picasso painting,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag #SickMinds. …

The 1955 painting, which Picasso began in 1954, was sold after 11 minutes of bidding, the BBC reports. The final price, including a 12 percent commission fee, was $179.4 million, beating the previous world record of $142.2 million set in 2013 by Francis Bacon’s painting Three Studies of Lucien Freud. The final price for The Women of Algiers (Version “O”) far surpassed the original estimate of $140 million.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, uncensored version, at the auction

Picasso paintings, anti-colonialism, speculators’ big money

This video says about itself:

Guernica (Picasso)

1 May 2011

Check out this antiwar mural by Pablo Picasso commemorating the bombing of Guernica.

Pablo Picasso‘s Guernica is well-known as a work of art against war and oppression.

A bit less known, because of Cold War politics, is a similar, later, painting, Massacre in Korea.

This video is about the Jeju Massacre.

This 2019 music video says about itself:

Piano Improvisation No. VIII ~ “Massacre in Korea” ~{An Interpretation of Picasso}~ was composed and recorded by Richard J. Panizza.


All rights reserved.

Another video which used to be on YouTube was called Matt L. Thush W. discuss Picasso’s Massacre in Korea and Goya‘s Third of May.

A few years after the Korean war, Picasso started a series of paintings connected to the French colonial war in Algeria.

From Tate in Britain:

Picasso’s series The Women of Algiers was started within a month of the Nationalist uprising in Algeria in 1954 which lead to the eight-year long Algerian War of Independence.

France’s history and politics in the post-war period was closely tied up with its relationship with its colonies and their bid for independence. In the midst of these events Picasso made the link with Eugène Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers 1834. His dialogue with Delacroix can be traced back to a number of early drawings from 1940 and the famous ‘Louvre’ test of 1946 in which Picasso directly juxtaposed his work with masterpieces in the museum. Picasso would have been drawn to Delacroix’s idea of the authenticity of antiquity in North Africa and to the relationship of Spanish culture to the period of Moorish domination.

The colours of Algeria were a great influence on Delacroix. Picasso explores colour throughout his series of paintings after Delacroix, also producing one monochrome version. Picasso also appreciated the patterning in a tiled interior, which can be seen as a continuation of his concern with handicraft and folk embroideries from Eastern Europe. Picasso’s sympathies remained with those who were deprived of their freedom or subjected to repression and torture.

Today, one painting of Picasso’s series The Women of Algiers is big news in the big media. However, the news is mainly not about war, repression, or torture; but about big money.

This 1 April 2015 video says about itself:

Picasso’s masterpiece Les Femmes d’ Alger to go for auctions.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Pablo Picasso‘s Women of Algiers sells for $179m to set new world auction record

Auction was held in New York by Christie’s

Andrew Buncombe, New York

Tuesday 12 May 2015

How much would someone pay for a brightly hued painting of a woman revealing her breasts set against a jumble of Cubist angles and shapes? If it was the work of Pablo Picasso, a quiet $179,365,000.

In truth, there was nothing quiet about the auction of the Women of Algiers (Version O) in New York on Monday evening, nor of the anticipation prior to its sale that it would set a new world record.

Indeed, when news broke that bidding at Christie’s had passed the $142.4m paid out two years ago for Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, it appears that nobody was particularly surprised.

The sale also featured Alberto Giacometti’s life-size sculpture Pointing Man, which sold for $141m, earning it the title of most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction. The buyers of neither of the works were immediately made public.

The Associated Press said Women of Algiers, once owned by the American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, was inspired by Picasso’s fascination with the 19th-century French artist Eugene Delacroix.

It was part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It has appeared in several major museum retrospectives of the artist.

Last year, Christie’s said its global sales of impressionist and modern art were $1.2bn, an increase of 19 per cent over the previous year.

Experts said the prices are driven by artworks’ investment value and by wealthy new and established collectors seeking out the very best works.

“I don’t really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don’t see happening in the near future,” New York art dealer Richard Feigen told the news agency.

Adapted from an earlier blog post:

Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad of 6 May 2004 published a Top 10 of most expensive works of art. Paintings, all of them.

The most expensive one of all, by Pablo Picasso, was sold for 104,1 million $.

In the Top 10 are 4 works by Pablo Picasso. An artist with far more luck than many others, in that appreciation already came during his lifetime.

So, compared to the overwhelming majority of artists, he was able to live well from his art. Still, he was much less of a millionaire than the speculators dealing in his work after his death. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is widely seen as one of the most influential paintings, maybe even the most influential painting, of the twentieth century. Yet its maker got only 25,000 French francs for it, from a wealthy fashion designer. In 1937, The Museum of Modern Art in New York bought it for 28,000 dollars. While if some art dealer would sell the painting today, he would sell it for tens of millions of dollars, or more.

Mondrian Sells for $50.6 M., a New Record, at Christie’s $202.6 M. Impressionist-Modern Sale: here.

The Spanish civil war and British artists

This video is called Pablo Picasso – Guernica (1937).

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Exhibition Review: Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war

Tuesday 25th November 2014

CHRISTINE LINDEY recommends an exhibition of art inspired by the Spanish civil war

THE momentous interwar years between 1918 and 1939 galvanised British artists into political commitment. Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, and appalled by the rise of fascism and the deprivation caused by the great depression, many turned to the left. Defence of the Spanish republic against the 1936 fascist insurrection united the anti-fascist peace movement.

This exhibition about British artists’ responses to the Spanish civil war highlights wider 1930s political and aesthetic debates. Art historian Roger Fry’s dominant ideology of “art for art’s sake” was contested by calls for politically engaged art by socialist and communist artists.

While working as an illustrator in the USSR in the early 1930s Cliff Rowe was impressed by its cultural policies. On returning home he founded the Artists International in 1933. It called for “the international unity of artists against imperialist war on the Soviet Union, fascism and colonial oppression” and its purpose was to spread this message through posters, banners, illustrations, exhibitions, meetings and lectures.

The following year it was equipped with a politically milder slogan and renamed the Artists International Association (AIA). Its membership grew rapidly and in 1936-9 it became the main focus for artists’ defence of Spain by raising public consciousness and funds.

Some artists argued for direct action and Felicia Browne, Julian Bell and Clive Branson fought in the International Brigade. Only Branson survived.

Felicia Browne, self-portrait

Browne, at the age of 32, was the first British volunteer killed in battle and in her self-portrait she returns our gaze squarely as a woman belligerently defiant of social convention.

She became a posthumous communist hero as commemorative exhibitions and publications of her uncompromisingly decisive drawings of Spanish militiamen and women raised money for Spain.

Other artists argued that creating propaganda was more useful and several rejected easel painting in favour of public arts as more effective tools of socio-political change.

The exhibition includes the AIA’s modernist banner for the British battalion of the International Brigade created by James Lucas, Phyllis Ladyman and Betty Rea, James Boswell’s illustrations for Left Review and Felicity Ashbee’s posters. The latter’s emotive portrayals of desperate war victims combine accessible figurative drawing with expressionist exaggeration such as enlarged pleading eyes and skeletal hands. The London County Council provided 22 large hoardings which AIA artists painted in public, so raising media and public awareness for Aid for Spain as they worked.

Other artists conveyed their beliefs through traditional means. Henry Rayner’s powerful print There is No Shelter chillingly reveals the mercilessness of aerial bombing. Of the several figures huddling for safety under a giant umbrella, the one holding it up turns out to be death personified as a skeleton.

Branson’s socialist-realist paintings stemmed from his communist desire to reach a wide audience. His Demonstration in Battersea (1939) celebrates collective action as demonstrators set off with communist and republican flags and banners amid the working-class district’s terrace housing, gasworks and factories.

Some British surrealists also opposed fascism and contributed imaginative masks and costumes to the 1938 May Day procession. Finding and exhibiting two of these props is a real scoop. Yet the meanings of most of their works — such as Stanley Hayter’s — are so elliptical or ambiguous that it is not clear that they refer to Spain, nor indeed even to antimilitarism.

The enervated forms and distorted figures in his Paysage Anthropophage (1937) could equally refer to personal or psychological anguish or to conflicts between unspecified humans or animals. In the 1930, when academic art still dominated, their adherence to abstracted or imaginary motifs were largely incompressible to most people.

Picasso also used modernist distortions in his Guernica canvas of 1937 but the motifs, such as the distraught woman running while carrying her dead child, and the bull as symbol of Spain make the painting’s meaning clear. It toured Britain with related works to raise funds for Spanish Relief in 1938, when it made a massive impression on British artists.

That exhibition’s catalogue is on show, along with Picasso’s Crying Woman and his satirical print The Dream of Franco alongside British works influenced by Guernica, such as FE McWilliam’s Spanish Head, with its anguished gaping mouth and carnivorous teeth.

Also displayed is the recent recreating of Guernica as a large banner in Pallant House. It was stitched by a collective including political refugees, anti-fascists and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to express the continuing need to protest against war and political oppression.

Together with its catalogue, this informative and well-researched exhibition of art, documentation and rare memorabilia makes a valuable contribution to knowledge about 1930s British politically aware art.

It rather overemphasises surrealists and modernists but it refrains from taking the all-too-common patronising attitude to artists with communist and socialist convictions.

It will hopefully galvanise a new generation to create politically committed art.

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until February 2015. Free. Details:

Conscience and Conflict is the first major exhibition to look at the response of British artists to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): here.

No Other Way: Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 by Chris Farman, Valery Rose and Liz Woolley (Oxford IBMC, £8): review here.

Art and social movements, exhibition in England

This video from England says about itself:

Picasso peace and freedom. Tate Liverpool 2010.

Picasso Peace and Freedom. A very impressive and well presented exhibition dedicated to P. Picasso. It shows more than 200 works of Picasso. A must for people interested in fine and sophisticated artistic material.

By Mark O’Brien in Britain:

Tate exhibition shows how art has always blossomed through revolt and revolution

Tate Liverpool’s new exhibition looks at more than two centuries of art, social movements and the left.Mark O’Brien says its scope is breathtaking

Art has never been separate from politics, or indeed from life. The Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013 exhibition drives that message home.

It brings together pieces from the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, France during May 1968 and right up to modern day movements of resistance and revolt and everything in between.

The coherence of the exhibition does not lie in the outward assembly of the art. Here for example, you will find Jacques-Louis David’s painting The Death of Marat (1793) alongside an Art and Soccer (1986) television installation from the Zvono Group of Bosnia and Herzogovina.

Rather, this extraordinarily diverse collection is organised through a series of provocative questions, such as “Is the identity of the artist more important than the artwork itself?” “How can art infiltrate everyday life?” “Can pursuing equality change how art is made?” and so on.

Art interacts with social movements, national liberation struggles, community protests, revolts and revolutions in many different ways.

In the photomontage and prints of the constructivists Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, celebration of the socialist revolution mixes with a conceptual belief in the humanisation of technology.

In the May 68 section, the posters of the Atelier Populaire workshop testify to the democratic creativity of a revolutionary moment. It emerged from a spontaneous meeting of art students and protesters at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

The works of the Spanish Equipo Group established in Paris, 1957 show the values of rationalism and anti-individualism that are points of return for the successive generations of left-wing artists on display.

So also does the piece Collective Operation from the first Congress of Free Artists held in Italy in 1956, which shows artists merging their individual efforts into a single work.

Similarly the works of the US feminist Guerrilla Girls who in 1985 asked “Do women have to be naked to get in to the Met. Museum?” were produced as an anonymous collective.

A photographic commentary on the disaster of war by Bertolt Brecht is placed alongside a small Brechtian theatrical installation. Art of the movement is also displayed in the work of Walter Crane, the socialist illustrator, cartoonist and designer of grand old trade union banners.

Running through the exhibition are the questions of the value and purpose of artistic production. The Arts and Crafts movement inspired by the work of William Morris presents one answer—that art should be a salvation from the degradation of life under capitalism, a “redemption from slavery”.

The continuation of that idea is shown in the German Workers Council for Art movement in Germany, from the Bauhaus movement that came after and in the Productivist art of Liubov Popova in the 1920s in Russia.

The sheer range of this exhibition is breathtaking—and the relationship between art and revolts against capitalism is striking.

Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013 Tate Liverpool until 2 February, £8.80/£6.60.

See also here.

Big German nazi art loot discovery

Matisse: Art historians are excited about the discovery of a painting by Matisse of a young woman like this

From the Daily Mail in Britain:

Discovered: Billion-pound art collection seized by the Nazis and ordered to be destroyed discovered behind rotting food in a dishevelled Munich apartment

More than 1,500 paintings found including pieces by Picasso and Matisse

Collector Hildebrandt Gurlitt ordered for them to be destroyed in 1945

But in a routine search on a train from Switzerland to Germany, his son was caught with 9,000 euros cash earned from an illicit art deal

Officials searched his small rented apartment in Munich and found the art

Experts claim most were acquired from Jews in exchange for escape

By Allan Hall

PUBLISHED: 14:43 GMT, 3 November 2013 | UPDATED: 14:43 GMT, 3 November 2013

A treasure trove of artworks worth almost £1billion seized by the Nazis and reportedly destroyed in RAF bombing raids during WW2 has been found behind rotting food in shabby apartment in Munich.

Experts have hailed the discovery of the 1,500 pictures, thought to have been lost or bombed, as a sensational find.

The story of the lost masterpieces of such painters as Pablo Picasso, Renoir, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall is revealed in this week’s edition of Germany’s Focus magazine which broke the story of the incredible find by customs officials.

Art historians examining the collection claim up to 300 of the Gurlitt collection appeared in a Nazi exhibition called Degenerate Art – displaying what they deemed to be poor.

The rest were bought at ‘shamefully’ low prices from Jews in exchange for an escape route out of the country.

One of the paintings is a portrait of a woman by the French master Matisse that belonged in the collection of the Jewish connoisseur Paul Rosenberg, who had to leave behind his collection before his escape from Paris when the country fell in 1940.

His granddaughter Anne Sinclair, the wife of disgraced former top banker Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been fighting for decades for the return of his pictures stolen by the Nazis, but according to Focus she ‘knew nothing’ of the existence of this painting.

It was found, alongside around 1,500 other pieces, in the Aladdin’s Cave behind a wall of tins of beans and fruit in the decrepit flat of loner Cornelius Gurlit in the Munich suburb of Schwabing.

This artwork by some of the giants of the 19th and 20th centuries was deemed ‘degenerate’ by the provincially-minded Nazi hierachy, stolen from collectors – many of them Jewish – and ordered to be shut away by Hitler and his henchmen.

Other works discovered in the flat are by Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Liebermann.

The astonishing story of their recovery is like the plot from a thriller.

Dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt had acquired the paintings and sketches in the 1930s and 40s for a pittance from terrified Jews and reported them all to be destroyed at the war’s end during the ferocious bombing of Dresden.

Nothing was known about the collection until September 2010, almost 100 years later, when customs carried out a routine check on a train from Switzerland.

Stopping his sole surviving son – who had never worked and who had no visible means of income – they discovered he had an envelope containing 9,000 euros in cash, and a stash of empty envelopes.

Many wealthy Germans deposit money illegally in Switzerland to evade high taxation rates on their savings in their homeland and such checks on people are commonplace.

He appeared nervous and the officials issued a search warrant for his £600-a-month rented flat.

It was entered in the spring of 2011 and the paintings discovered.

But, controversially, customs slapped a ban on information about the raid.

Ever since, art historians have been trying to find the heirs to the sketches, oil paintings, charcoals, lithographs and watercolours around the world while prosecutors pursue tax evasion charges against Gurlitt who sold artworks off piece-meal over the years to live on.

One painting by Max Beckmann – The Lion Tamer – he hawked at the Cologne auction house of Lempertz for nearly £750,000 shortly before the collection was seized.

The recovered works are now in a security wing of Bavarian customs in Garching near Munich where a team of experts are trying to find the heirs to the rightful owners.

‘This is a sensational find,’ said a spokesman for German Customs. ‘A true treasure trove. It is an incredible story.’

The collection has meant that Gurlitt has managed to survive his entire life without any official bank account, pension or insurance.

When stopped by customs, extensive checks found that he was not registered with the police – mandatory in Germany – the tax authorities or social services. He drew no pension and had no health insurance.

‘He was a man who didn’t exist,’ said one official.

When his apartment was entered investigators discovered a mountain of past sell-by date of tinned and bottled food. Behind the decomposing food, next to a barred window, were found the missing artworks.

A customs official went on: ‘They are worth over a billion euros, we are told, but the real worth is inestimable. They are treasures.’ But they were artworks despised by the Nazis.

Hitler and his propaganda minister Josef Goebbels seized some 20,000 such works before WW2, many of which were displayed in the ‘Degenerate Art‘ exhibition in Munich.

Hitler liked only romantic paintings that idolised his vision of German supermen: impressionism, cubism and modernism had no place in the Third Reich.

Tens of thousands of Germans visited the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937 to see their leaders tell them what not to like.

But behind-the-scenes, owners of paintings, many of them Jewish, were being forced to sell them at rock-bottom prices to art dealers in exchange for an escape to safer countries.

Gurlitt is a name well-known to art aficionados, a family who once catered to the elite of the German art collecting scene. Hildebrand Gurlitt was among the most respected art historians in Germany by the time the Nazis came to power in 1933.

He was a champion of modern art – and therefore, initially, hated by the Nazis. He was relieved of museum directorial posts by the regime and also persecuted because of his Jewish grandmother. But the Nazis also needed him because no-one had the contacts within Nazi Germany – and outside – that he had with collectors.

He was tasked by Goebbels personally with ‘versilbern’ – turning into cash – the degenerate artworks of the Jews for the regime. He did this with some zeal and was rewarded by being offered the future post of director of the ‘super’ museum of art that Hitler planned to open in Linz, Austria, where he had once lived.

Gurlitt acquired ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of artworks at knock-down prices, according to Focus. After the Nazi’s Degenerate Art exhibition, he took control of some of the exhibits too.

At the end of the war Guirlitt said the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945 had destroyed his collection at the family home in Kaitzer Strasse.

His Jewish roots and his initial disfavour with Nazism made him, in the eyes of the Allies, a victim not a persecutor and he was never charged with fleecing Jews out of selling their collections for pennies. He carried on dealing in art until 1956 when he was killed in a car crash.

It wasn’t until his son was stopped on the train three years ago that the secret of his collection was revealed.

A customs spokesman added: ‘We went into the apartment expecting to find a few thousand undeclared euros, maybe a black bank account.

‘But we were stunned with what we found. From floor to ceiling, from bedroom to bathroom, were piles and piles of old food in tins and old noodles, much of it from the 80’s.

‘And behind it all these pictures worth tens, hundreds of millions of euros.’

Focus reported that investigators later found a bank savings book of Cornelius Gurlitt with half-a-million euros on deposit in it, the fruits of his sale of the artwork over the years.

Ironically, although Gurlitt faces jail for tax evasion and money laundering, many of the paintings could be returned to him if their rightful heirs are not found.

See also here.

Guernica’s lost children

This video is called Guernica Picasso.

By musician Roberto Garcia, living in Britain now:

Spain’s lost children

Wednesday 25 April 2012

On the afternoon of Monday April 26 1937, when the Spanish civil war was in its 10th month, the small Basque market town of Guernica was almost completely destroyed by bombs dropped by Franco’s fascist forces.

It was a market day, and thousands of innocent people were killed.

Franco denied responsibility for the carpet bombing attack, claiming it was the work of “red incendiaries.”

However, in the words of George Steer, the Times journalist who visited Guernica the day after the bombing and subsequently filed a report following the denials by Franco’s nationalists: “I spoke with hundreds of homeless and distressed people who all gave precisely the same description of events … unexploded German aluminium incendiary bombs were found in Guernica marked ‘Rheindorf factory, 1936,’ eyewitnesses reported Heinkel and Junkers bombers and subsequently statements from captured German pilots in early April reported that these bombers were manned entirely by German pilots.”

In Paris, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso began work on what would become his most famous painting – Guernica.

Four days after the bombing of Guernica, a letter was published in the Times and signatories included Ellen Wilkinson and the Duchess of Atholl. The letter was asking for refugees to be brought to Britain, and at the same time Leah Manning, an official of the British National Union of Teachers who was in Bilbao at the invitation of the Spanish government, was trying to arrange the evacuation of children on behalf of the National Joint Committee for Spanish relief.

Na-mara‘s songs and music tell the story of the evacuation of 4,000 children from Bilbao.

My father was among the group of child refugees brought to Britain to escape the bombings.

After much shameful prevarication from a British government bent on a policy of appeasement, 4,000 children were accepted aged from five to 12, with the strict proviso that there was not to be a charge on the British taxpayer, and under the condition that children were to be sent back to Spain “as soon as conditions permitted.”

In addition, only children were accepted and parents were to be left behind.

The Basque children’s committee, which had representations from organisations including the TUC, took responsibility for the children when they arrived in Southampton in May 1937.

My father Fausto, aged seven, and his older brother Teo, aged nine, were among this group of children whose names were put forward by their parents to take them away from the bombings and the war to a safe haven.

As parents were not allowed to travel with their children the parting must have been unbearable.

In order to console their children, mothers told them it was “only for three months.”

Events to mark the anniversary

The acclaimed St Albans-based folk duo Na-mara – Paul McNamara (Guitar and vocals) and Rob Garcia (Guitar, mandolin and mandola) – will be performing a series of concerts at events to commemorate the bombing of Guernica 75 years ago today, and the evacuation of the Basque children during the Spanish civil war.

Their concerts will include a mixture of self-penned songs and tunes from the war, interwoven with the story of the International Brigades and the evacuation of the Basque children from Bilbao in May 1937.

Their songs about the Spanish civil war capture the history of those brave men and women and tell the story of the commitment of British workers and members of trade union movements who joined the Spanish republic to fight fascism.

As close friends of the International Brigade Memorial Trust their performances coincide with events being organised by the IBMT to commemorate the criminal carpet bombing of Guernica by Franco’s fascist forces during the height of the Spanish civil war in April 1937.

Na-mara has released a special EP to commemorate the bombing of Guernica and Basque children’s evacuation on this the 75th anniversary, entitled Songs of the Spanish civil war.

You can hear them on the following dates and venues:

– May 4, 8pm – Ruskin House Folk and Blues Club, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon, Surrey. A 75th anniversary commemoration event for Guernica, in memory of Bob Doyle. Further info at or (01737) 553-493

– May 11-14 – Maesteg Town Hall. Part of the Celtic Tapas in Maesteg festival commemorating the Welsh miners who fought in the Spanish civil war.

– May 12, 4pm – Hartley Suite, University of Southampton. Commemoration event for the arrival of the el ninos in Britain.

– May 20, 2pm – Friends of Ash Church, nr New Ash Green, Kent, TN15. A concert with songs of the International Brigade and in memory of the ninos.

– June 18, 11am – BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the children from Bilbao in May 1937. The programme is entitled Habana, the name of the ship that the children travelled in, and will include an interview with Rob and feature Na-mara’s music.

– July 7 – South Bank Jubilee Memorial Gardens. Free open-air event to commemorate the International Brigades.

For further information on Na-Mara, visit

Brighton artists are remaking Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece for the modern fight against fascism, says BERNADETTE HYLAND: here.

Picasso’s influence in Britain

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Picasso And Modern British Art
Tate Britain, London SW1

Friday 02 March 2012

It is rare nowadays to see Picasso‘s influence on young artists. But for the first half of the 20th century and beyond he towered over contemporaries across the “developed” world, Britain included.

Restless inventor, curious observer, a man of passionate engagement with the turbulent technological, social and political changes of his times, the content of Picasso‘s works opened up so many possibilities and controversies that contemporary artists loved or hated him.

But they ignored him at their peril. For artists and public Picasso came to symbolise modern art itself.

The Tate’s exhibition presents a fascinating picture of Britain’s changing attitudes to modernist art by intertwining the two themes of Picasso’s influence on seven British modernist artists and the reception of his work by British collectors, critics and institutions.

The exhibition of his cubist work in London in 1910 met with fierce controversy and suspicion and in the inter-war years his work elicited polarised debates ranging from enthusiasm to bafflement to condemnation – attitudes which survived from 1945 onwards.

Museum curators heeded the dominant conservatism of public taste and it was not until 1933 that the Tate gallery became the first British public collection to buy a Picasso and that was a tame 1901 flower piece.

By 1960 responses to the Tate’s Picasso exhibition were predominantly favourable yet five years later the House of Lords still queried the Tate’s purchase of The Three Dancers with public money.

Organised broadly chronologically the British artists selected in this show reflect aspects of Picasso’s own changing preoccupations. Inspired by African art his and Braque’s invention of cubism between 1908 and 1910 shattered traditional ways of representing the seen world.

By 1914 Wyndham Lewis had appropriated cubist forms for his aggressive Vorticist works while Duncan Grant was experimenting with African-inspired simplifications of form and cubist collage.

After the first world war Picasso’s more tranquil and colourful 1920s compositions inspired Ben Nicholson’s thoughtful, balanced still lives in which flat geometric shapes in muted greys and pastels teetered on the edge of abstraction.

Hung alongside Picasso’s 1924 Guitar, Compote Dish And Grapes Nicholson’s paintings hold their ground.

Unwilling to be typecast Picasso baffled and intrigued by occasionally veering to more traditional ways of working. His 1919 drawing of the dancer Lydia Lopokova has the anatomically correct proportions and purity of line of an Ingres.

His 1920s heavy-limbed, statuesque neoclassical nudes recall Roman sculptures. But later that decade he produced frighteningly distorted and threatening female figures with flaying limbs and brainless pin heads.

Henry Moore looked to both the latter sources in his 1930s sculptures of reclining women.

Francis Bacon’s rare surviving early works also owe a debt to Picasso’s distended figures as do his depictions of demonic heads with shark-like teeth in mouths more likely to bite than to kiss.

Franco’s insurrection politicised Picasso. He threw himself into supporting the Spanish republic, including painting Guernica for his country’s pavilion at the 1937 Paris World Fair.

Related prints and drawings, including the wonderfully expressive Weeping Woman, are displayed in a small section devoted to the 1938-9 British touring exhibition of Guernica in aid of Spain.

Predictably the role of British communists in organising this goes unmentioned in the exhibition pamphlet and wall plaques.

Graham Sutherland’s Deposition from 1946 pays tribute to Picasso – and Goya – but does so with such intelligence, sincerity and feeling that these sources are transformed to create a powerful metaphor for the recent sufferings of WWII. This is one of the great British works here.

The exhibition, which ends with humble homages to Picasso by David Hockney, is one in which rather too much is made of Picasso‘s two brief visits to Britain – a few weeks in 1919 to work on sets and costumes for the ballet The Three Cornered Hat and a few days in 1950 as the only one of 52 communist delegates from Paris to be granted entry to Britain for the aborted 1950 Sheffield Peace Congress.

The exhibition pamphlet merely attributes its cancellation to “government intervention” but the catalogue does explain the cold war context.

The crucial role played by Picasso’s commitment to communism in the celebratory humanist content of much of his post-WWII works is not featured. Indeed the focus is on his works before 1939.

Cuts in public funding cause museums to save costs by increasingly basing exhibitions around works mostly borrowed from British collections. The design and curating must be strong, focused and elucidating to warrant asking the public – most of whom is also short of cash – to fork out to see many works which are normally in free permanent displays.

This exhibition pulls this off brilliantly.

Some sections are devoted to Picasso alone while the British artists are each exhibited alongside a few Picassos which influenced them. There is much to discover, learn and enjoy.

Inspired and intelligent curating allows us to see Picasso’s work and that of those he influenced in a new light.

Runs until July 15. Box office: (020) 7887-8888.

Picasso exhibition in Australia: here.

A glass Picasso piece was found in storage at the Indiana Museum! Here.

Picasso’s Child With A Dove in temporary export bar: here.

Picasso Double Painting Cleaned: Restoration Reveals Hidden Painting Behind ‘Woman Ironing’: here.

It may come as a surprise, but Basel is home to more major works by Picasso than almost anywhere in the world. “In terms of quality and quantity, the Picassos in Basel are probably on a par with those in Paris, and are only exceeded by those in New York,” says Nina Zimmer, a curator at the Kunstmuseum Basel: here.

Picasso’s sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: here.

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