Picasso and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement 1969

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I recently came across an interesting poster (thanks to a thoughtful reader) which was used in the 250,000 person “March against death : march on Washington” anti-Vietnam War protest march which took place on Nov. 13-15, 1969. You can read the front page story about the march on the NYT’s “On This Day” website and more details can be found in the memoirs of one of the organizers, Ron Young, Crossing Boundaries in the Americas, Vietnam, and the Middle East: A Memoir (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014).

Picasso donated a pen and ink drawing for the protesters to use in their promotional material which shows one of his “machines of war”.

(see a larger version 1828 px wide

A view of just the image:

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These “engines of war” first appeared in his anti-Korean War pictures from the early 1950s which marked a break from his earlier anti-war drawings which showed primarily the victims of war such as the women, children, and horse in “Guernica” (1937) or the apparently unfinished (or unfinishable) “The Charnel House” (1944-45) depicting the victims of WW2.

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For two or so decades after WW2 Picasso drew many images which were used for posters for various peace congresses. These consisted mainly of his classic peace dove images, or images of flowers.

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With the Korean War he changed tack and drew a series of works showing the actual killing rather than the aftermath of attacks. In “Massacre in Korea” (Jan. 1950) he shows a group of women and children facing immanent execution by a group of faceless, helmeted soldiers with rifles, very much in the style of Francisco Goya’s classic “The Third of May 1808”.

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This was followed a a pair of paintings in 1952, “War” and “Peace”, with the war painting showing a chariot with a warrior with a bloody sword and a group of silhouettes committing unseen atrocities in the background.

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During 1951 Picasso drew a series of works which showed various “machines of war” or tank-like vehicles attacking soldiers who look like classical Greek warriors. It was one of these tank-like vehicles which he drew for the 1969 anti-Vietnam War march in Washington.

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Another poster from the same year as the anti-war march shows the enduring relevance of the “Guernica” painting for anti-war protesters. It depicts a close-up of the head and arm of the fallen warrior/statue.

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For further information and images see:
– my Guide to the War Art of Picasso
Picasso: Peace and Freedom, ed. Lynda Morris and Christoph Grunenberg (London: Tate Publishing, 2010).
Picasso and the War Years, 1937-1945, ed. Stephen A. Nash, with Robert Rosenblum (New York: Thames and Hudson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1998).

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937)

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The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted a mural depicting the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German air force in 1937 during Spanish Civil War. It depicts the victims of war, such as suffering women, children, and a horse. It is perhaps the greatest painting about war ever made as it focuses on the victims and is timeless and universal in its themes.

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The Death of James Garner: “Don’t Mention the War!”

James Garner

[Revised: 21 July, 2014]

I read this morning that the American actor James Garner died yesterday from a stroke at the age of 86. I liked his laid back sardonic characters like the western gambler Bret Maverick and the ex-con private investigator Jim Rockford who preferred to use the barbs of humour rather than violence to overcome his opponents. I remember in one episode of “The Rockford Files” he was driving his car and his passenger pulled out a pistol. Rockford was so affronted by the weapon that he threw it out the window because he refused to use one in his investigations!

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