...Picasso's commitment to the cause
Until the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Picasso had never shown any real interest in politics. But as was the case for many artists and intellectuals in Europe at the time, the threat of fascism fueled in Picasso a passionate opposition to the precepts and atrocities of war. His activism took the form of financial and personal support for the Republican cause, but he was reluctant to mix politics and art.

In November of 1936, Franco launched an all-out air attack on Madrid. When the Museum del Prado itself was bombarded by Franco's artillery, the museum's entire collection had to be removed from the city for safety. Infuriated by the wanton destruction, he accepted the role of Honorary Director-in-Exile of the Prado and became a spokesman of the Republican government in its efforts to publicize Franco's desecration of Spain's artistic heritage.

Picasso also made his condemnation of Franco and the Spanish situation known in a series of bitterly satirical illustrations accompanied by his own prose poem, The Dream and Lie of Franco. The eighteen panels of caricature-like etchings were designed as postcards to be sold at the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 World Fair to raise money for the Republican cause. "This is a time in Picasso's life and career when he is not only involved in a broader way with political events," says art historian, Patricia Failing, "but also does something very unusual, which is to produce a work specifically for propagandistic and fundraising purposes."

a selection from The Dream and Lie of Franco

Franco had portrayed himself to the Spanish people as a champion of traditional Spanish culture. But in Dream and Lie Picasso exposes this claim as a grotesque deceit. "And throughout the whole series, Picasso manages this evil little character of a polyp in a very theatrical way," adds Failing, "like a character on a stage that he outfits with various hats and props, and thereby suggests relationships with the Catholic clergy, with art historical traditions, with the traditions of Spanish royalty - basically relationships with the elements of Spanish culture that General Franco was claiming in his campaign to win the hearts of the Spanish people."

Picasso's etchings show Franco as a monstrosity masquerading as tradition, an enemy of the arts, an oppressor of workers and peasants and of creative energy and freedom, and a murderer of Spanish women and children. Although many of the images Picasso used in Dream and Lie are reminiscent of his earlier works, the distorted figures portraying Franco as an "evil-omened polyp" were clearly meant to represent the evil faces of the fascist dictator. "There's an element of caricature, an element of obviousness. There's an element of burlesque in The Dream and Lie of Franco etchings that you don't find in his other work, and you certainly don't find any kind of direct parallel in the Guernica painting."

The last four drawings of the series most closely express what the language of his poetry describes:

...cries of children cries of women cries of birds cries of flowers cries of timbers and of stones cries of bricks cries of furniture of beds of chains of curtains of pots and of papers cries of odors which claw at one another cries of smoke pricking the shoulder of cries...


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Mona Lisa
detail from Guernica
Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg
Hope Diamond
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scene from Borobudur

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