Painting the War: Picasso's Genre Works During the German Occupation of Paris
Bryn Mawr College. Department of History of Art
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
Picasso spent the years of the German Occupation in his apartment and studio in Paris painting still lifes and portraits. Bracketed by such distinctly political works as Guernica of 1937 and The Charnel House of 1945, the question of the artistic politics of Picasso's genre works of the war years is unavoidable. In this thesis I argue that the genre, subject, and style of Picasso's works during the Occupation are inextricably linked to the war torn times in which he was working. I make no claim that through painting still lifes and portraits Picasso was crafting some sort of political manifesto. Rather, I intend to demonstrate that, despite the seemingly mundane thematic choices, these works are expressive vehicles of human suffering, which potentially operated as private, even subconscious, acts of resistance against the oppressive and destructive forces of war. After contextualizing Picasso and his painting within the sociopolitical climate of Paris, I intend to show, through a close examination of several of the works he painted during the Occupation, that Picasso was indeed 'painting the war'. Though the genre works of the war years avoid any obvious narration of the war or depiction of specific events, they are powerful for the ways in which they capture and evoke not only the suffering of an artist, but the suffering of an entire country crumbling under the weight of war.