Picasso and the Exodus A history of Spanish art in resistance

Picasso and the Exodus

This exhibition will provide an occasion for the public to discover or rediscover, among other works, the exceptional stage curtain by Picasso, La Dépouille du Minotaure en costume d’Arlequin [The Corpse of the Minotaur in Harlequin Costume], created by the artist in 1936 and donated by him to the city of Toulouse in 1965. It is only presented once every two years for conservation purposes.

In late April 1937, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), while working in his Parisian studio Grands-Augustins on a commission for the pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the World’s Fair in Paris, learned of the massacre of a city during the Spanish Civil War. Radically transforming the work’s initial theme, he painted Guernica. Settled in France for several decades for his art, he vowed not to return to Spain until the fall of Francoism: he would never return to his native country. The Spanish War marked for the artist the start of his politically engaged art and his long exile.

Besides Picasso’s work, the exhibition will also broach the financial support that he brought to his compatriots in exile, both artists and anonymous individuals, for instance through his support of the Hôpital Varsovie (now Joseph Ducuing) in Toulouse, or by supporting exiled Spanish artists, who he often sponsored (we can cite, among others Appel.les Fenosa, Oscar Dominguez, Antoni Clavé, Josep Renau, and Remedios Varo). The exhibition will also explore how the artist, an emigrant by choice who became an exile in spite of himself, expresses the historical or popular culture of a country. A contemporary take on the image of Guernica as a work of peace and on contemporary states of exile will complete this project.

The Republican exodus finds its roots in a long line of migrations between France and Spain, which began in the 12th century. La Retirada, the migratory phase of the republican exile began in 1939 and is the most memorable of these. Nearly 500 000 Spaniards fled the Spanish Civil War that began in 1936 and the pro-Franco regime, travelling to France over a two-week period. For all of those who had not given up the struggle against fascism, the proximity with Spain made Toulouse the preferred fallback base. Even though part of this population was to return to Spain after Franco’s victory was consummated, several hundreds of thousands of Spaniards settled definitively in France, and especially in Occitanie. The Spanish immigration linked to the Republican exile, brought with it a significant cultural contribution, making a profound historical, artistic, and political impact on the city of Toulouse. The future of the two trans-Pyrenean countries was thus modified. Toulouse, capital of the exodus, still bears its trace, as does the whole Occitanie region, as the site of shelter and migrant camps.
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