Picasso. Peace and Freedom. Tate Liverpool. 18-06-10

Picasso, peace and freedom is a thoroughly researched exhibition looking at Picasso the political activist and peace campaigner. As always when you stand in front of his work the energy and passion behind what he did grabs you by the throat. There is a terrifying small image of a fight between a lobster and a cat, and a painting of a murdered Spanish republican family which is very moving. There is real anger in the early part of the show which is not so evident as time went on. The most beautiful image, shining out in bright colours amongst all the angst and almost monochrome images is a vibrant lithograph of a light hanging over a table in red black and yellow. Later on we begin to get Picasso the brand, using his fame and talent to support causes that he believed in. In a sense this is his charity work which went alongside everything else that he was doing, and as such it is perhaps less interesting, but it is a side of a restlessly energetic and creative man that is worth exploring. There are beautiful graphic images and lithographs of doves and pigeons and wonderful arresting posters that would certainly make you turn your head as you walked by. My favourite was a stunningly simple image of a young Algerian woman, used for a poster to support their cause which hangs next to it. It is just a few lines on a large sheet of plain white paper which make a calm proud image, staring out at you and asking with dignity for justice. Sometimes I think that too much may be being read into a work. In Picasso’s take on Las Meninas, for example, I think that he was having a dialogue with Velasquez and pitting himself against him, not satirising Franco.

This was a powerful and thought provoking exhibition and I enjoyed playing with the ipod that came as the exhibition guide, but I would have happily exchanged it all to be back in Madrid standing in front of Guernica again for a hour or two. That was produced from the heart, out of righteous anger and says everything that needs to be said, by Picasso or anyone else, about the horrors and sufferings of war and the need for peace.


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