1937. Civil war is raging in Spain. Volunteers from all over the world run to Spain to enlist in the International brigades. War is sinister. Civil war is “sinisterer”. Friends against friends. Neihbours against neighbours. Brothers against brothers. On April 26, 1937, the little town of Guernica in Spain, between Bilbao and San Sebastian, is bombed by Hitler’s “Condor Legion”. Testing his weapons for the coming World War.
Picasso immediately sets out to paint one of his – now – most well known paintings as a protest against the atrocities of the bombing. Dora Maar, a well-known photographer then and Picasso’s current mistress, is commissioned to photograph the painting process.
Pay attention to the sketch above. Bottom left a man lying on the ground lifts his right arm, fist closed, in a – final – protest.
The Pompidou museum acquired Dora Maar’s negatives around the turn of this century. Put together a “diaporama”, a unique testimony of both Dora Maar’s and Picasso’s work. Picasso paints from bottom up. Adding or modifying details as he goes along. A sun has been added at the top centre. The dying man on the floor now holds a wheat ear in his hand.
Paint is added gradually. Dora Maar faced tremendous photograph challenges. The workshop was badly lit. (See the projector to the right). And the room was not large and deep enough to take an easy shot. I suspect her camera was mounted close to the facing wall.
The face of the man lying on the ground has disappeared.
The hand holding the wheat has gone. The round sun has become eye-shaped. The face of the man on the floor is now turned to the left. Other elements may have been modified. Anybody spots something else, pray tell…
Painting is progressing. The screaming horse in the centre of the painting is nearly finished. The man on the ground has turned around completely. His foot and leg have become an arm and a hand. I guess the painting would now “cost an arm and a leg”.
Almost done. Picasso was a sloppy painter. Paints and brushes thrown on the floor. 😉 Though he used “screens” to protect some details whilst he was painting others. See to the right.
This is the last of Dora Maar’s shots I managed to take at the her expo last year. I was a tad pissed at a snarling little old man mumbling about people taking photos and not letting others see. I was “glued” to the left wall in a 5 ms wide room… Plenty of space… Focus about the images, forget about a typical French retort. Bite your tongue…
The sun has become a light bulb. The man lying on the floor is now face up.
Final painting at the Queen Sofia in Madrid. I needed it for “closing”. Of course the image was protected against right-click copy. Museums still have not understood how Internet works. Tsss. Screen-shot plus Photoshop is the “pirate”‘s answer. My heartfelt thanks to the Museum though.
Another note on the process: Picasso took about a month to paint Guernica. Rather fast.
Dora Maar’s work documented the creative process of a unique piece of art. Not sure Picasso was very grateful. Many artists are a tad “proprietary”. And Picasso was not a nice person (in my unwarranted opinion). I view this series as “Guernica” by Dora Maar. To end on cross references:
Picasso by Dora Maar. c. 1936-37.
Dora Maar by Man Ray. (Another “biggie” of photography.) I don’t think Picasso ever bothered with a camera. Though it would have been interesting.
Which do you prefer? The above portraits of Maar and Picasso? Or the paintings below?
Picasso by Dora Maar.
Dora Maar by Picasso.
Thank you for flying Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle and stepping into Picasso’s 1937 workshop. Except for the final painting, all images were taken at the Dora Maar Expo last year at the Pompidou centre. All rights reserved and all that. Many thanks to them for putting together a mind-blowing expo. As usual, y’all stay safe now, ye hear? 😷🙏🏻