Book Prologue
  Author Interview
  Snapshots & Sounds
  About the Author
  Discussion Guide
  News & Reviews

Chapter Excerpts

The Spanish Dead

Remembering the Bullring

Images Spilling From Fingers

Save Spain!

A Wearable Pair of Boots


The Last Refugee

Guernica in Gernika
In the first days after the German invasion of Poland and the commencement of the new war, Picasso had traveled with Dora Maar, his friend and personal assistant Jaime Sabartés and his wife, his chauffer Marcel and his Afghan hound Kazbek to the Atlantic coastal town of Royanto which locale he had sent Marie-Thérèse Walter and his daughter Maya some months before. The somnolent town of Royan had been selected because it was a relatively short drive from Paris, because its seaside location might afford at least a few of the pleasures of the Riviera, and also because it would allow an exodus from France by boat if one were suddenly demanded. Picasso previously had declined offers to immigrate from both Mexico and the United States, but somehow, journeying as far as France's periphery was the thing that made most sense to him in the face of the troubling times. Yet after having returned to Paris for several short visits during the year spent on the Atlantic coast, he decided in August 1940two months following the Nazi occupation of Francethat the city remained relatively sheltered from the calamities of the war, and that it was far a better place to live and work than was provincial Royan.

Picasso was able to re-claim his studio and living spaces from the authorities at the Spanish embassyalthough it remains unclear whether he was required to pay some sort of fee to close the matterand he attempted to return to a facsimile of the life he long had loved in the city, despite the fact that the Nazis' control of Paris appalled him. With operation of the city's underground-train and bus system suspended, and with gasoline severely rationed, he opted to close the flat in the rue la Boétie and move to his studio in the Quartier Latin, despite the fact that the cavernous rooms in the building at No.7, rue des Grands-Augustins were chronically cold and difficult to heat in wintertime. He returned to the bistros and cafés that for decades had been the center of his social life, returned to the long days of painting he loved, and even was able to procure bronze for the casting of a number of sculptures at a time when it and all metals were difficult to find and were commonly confiscated by the Germans.

Yet Picasso also lived with substantial inconvenience, uncertainty, and occasional fear during the years of the war. Soon after his return from Royan, he was summoned to register for the Service de travail obligatoire, the national compulsory service agency, despite the fact that at 59 he was only a year away from the age at which citizens became exempt from participation. His studio and personal quarters became the targets of searches by the German Gestapo, often under the pretense that were attempting to find one or another of Picasso's Jewish friends who had gone into hiding. By 1942, Picasso himself was commonly accused of a being a Jewalthough it was his celebrity that likely kept him from being deportedand in November 1943, he and others were both reprimanded and stiffly fined when they were caught dining on chateaubriand at Le Catalan, an offense against the strict rationing of beef that cost the restaurant its license to operate for the following month.

Although the artist was notoriously timid when it came to concern for his personal safety, and although the larger war never captured his anger nor his determination to find ways to fight for the cause of freedom in the profound way the Spanish war had done, Picasso nonetheless developed something of a reputation as a brave resistor by the end of the warat least in the United States. In the New York Museum of Modern Art Bulletin  for January 1945published four months after Paris's liberation by the AlliesAlfred Barr, the museum's reedy and erudite 43-year old director, heralded the man he had come to consider a friend as someone "whose very existence in Paris encouraged the Resistance artists, poets, and intellectuals who gathered in his studio or about his café table," and Barr offered as proof of Picasso's stature the comments of Gladys Delmas, a young American woman living in Paris who affirmed that the artist's "work has become a sort of banner of the Resistance movement." Picasso himself probably had contributed to Barr's and others' perception of him having behaved rather boldly throughout the war when, immediately following the liberation, he told an American correspondent for Newsweek magazine that on the day when a German army officer had recognized a sketch of Guernica pinned to the wall of his studio and had asked him, "Did you do that?," Picasso coldly had replied, "No, you did."

At times it seemed that, from an American perspective, the liberation of Pablo Picasso was perhaps the Allied invasion's single most important achievement. PICASSO IS SAFE, shouted a San Francisco Chronicle  headline above a story that carefully detailed how the artist had survived the years of the occupation. Virtually every American journalist arriving in Paris in September 1944 requestedand most receivedpermission to interview the storied painter, and so many furloughed Americans soldiers were eager to make his acquaintance and view his war-time work that Picasso set aside every Thursday morning that autumn for group visits from the young men and women whose role in setting him and his adopted city free he was deeply grateful for, despite the personal inconvenience the pilgrimages meant for him. "Yes, it's an invasion," Picasso joked with his friend, the photographer Brassaï. "Paris is liberated, but me, I was and I remain besieged."

Excerpted from Picasso's War by Russell Martin, Copyright© 2002 by Russell Martin. Excerpted by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.