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Picasso's Red Period: Politics, Peace, and Public Perception, 1937–73

TAVERNESE, CLAUDIA,ALBINA (2018) Picasso's Red Period: Politics, Peace, and Public Perception, 1937–73. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In October 1944, Pablo Picasso joined the Parti communiste français (PCF) alongside numerous friends and intellectuals. Despite the fact that Picasso remained a member until his death, the sincerity of his political commitment and the connections between his art and his politics are difficult to assess. What are the methodological issues associated with being a politically engaged artist? More specifically, how can we relate art and politics in a way that problematises the question of Picasso’s political commitment? This thesis will explore the various ways of evaluating Picasso’s engagement with the PCF. Focus will be placed on the foundations of Picasso’s involvement with the Party, the World Peace Movement, and various Communist-affiliated groups. His actions, statements, artworks, and donations must all be assessed within a broad historical framework in an effort to piece together a cohesive picture of Picasso’s twenty-nine years as a PCF member. However, sincerity and personal motivations cannot be fully determined; therefore, we must also consider how Picasso’s politics were constructed by others. The outside perceptions of Picasso’s commitment to Communism will demonstrate the importance of public opinion in the formation of Picasso’s political image. Archival findings in Paris, New York, and Texas have revealed the thousands of letters Picasso received from Communist parties, peace groups, comrades, friends, critics, and fans. The majority of this material only became available in 1992 and includes a substantial number of requests from political and charitable organisations, which demonstrate the extent of Picasso’s support for Communist causes and reveal how these groups understood Picasso’s values. Further documentation exposes the strategies employed by the Museum of Modern Art to separate art from politics; thus, making Picasso—and a range of modern artwork—palatable to an American audience throughout the Cold War. The diverse political uses and depoliticising strategies deployed by Picasso, his admirers, his dealers, and various institutions illustrates the discrepancy in his political significance depending on context, place, audience, and personal objectives. This thesis tells the story of a political brand and an artistic icon by challenging the way Picasso’s politics have been understood throughout history and by constructing associations between personal commitment, public perception, and consumption.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Oct 2018 10:28

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