In the style of Van Gogh, Picasso's self portrait shows him wearing a dark coat. This self portrait also shows a cultural phenomenon that was beginning to emerge at the time, which is the picture of the social-politically motivated intellectual artist. Although Picasso joined the French communist party after the second world war, in this author's opinion he never had any real interest in politics. He would romanticize the intellectual-leftist life style but only showed signs of true engagement about matters that concerned his native Spain and as such he was a nationalist (or a patriot), if anything....Please scroll down >>>
During the Korean war many artists felt that they had to take a stance and Picasso's painting Massacre in Korea (1951) is a very fine example of Picasso's style, but it's almost funny how little effort Picasso has taken to come to any kind of sophisticated composition in this painting. The bad men are on the right and the innocent women and children are on the left and that's about it.
A far more sophisticated composition is Picasso's Guernica, which is about the unprovoked destruction of a Spanish village and the slaughter of its inhabitants, by the German army.
During his adult life Pablo Picasso was always associated with some kind of leftist movement. From his late teens on Picasso carefully cultivated his contacts with avant garde intellectuals such as Max Jacob, Alfred Jarry, André Salmon and Guillaume Apollinaire. The last two were art critics and as such contributed significantly to Picasso's early commercial breakthrough.
Picasso wouldn't be the last artist whose leftist convictions were an aid in his quest for fame and fortune. Here it must be understood that it wasn't in Picasso's nature to become a Maudit, which is a French word for a gifted artist that lives and dies in poverty, maudit meaning cursed. There are many ways to avoid that fate, but a healthy dose of opportunism was never wasted on Picasso. Likewise, his relative lack of resistance to the German occupant during WWII has been regarded as cowardice by some people, maybe because since Van Gogh people expect heroism and martyrdom from artists.
At peace congress
Pablo Picasso was a tremendously productive artistic omnivore who lived and breathed art, which should in this author's opinion more than make up for the things he didn't do.
Picasso cultivated his leftist image with such vigor that he even convinced J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, who was concerned about Picasso's membership of the communist party. The Pablo Picasso FBI files contain excerpts from Picasso's article "Why I became a communist". Its intellectual depth is negligible, an observation which may have been wasted on a hard-nosed FBI official in 1945.
J. Edgar Hoover:
In the event information concerning Picasso comes to your attention, it should be furnished to the Bureau in view of the possibility that he may attempt to come to the United States.
The photo above shows Picasso at the International Peace Congress for intellectuals in 1948 in Breslau. I don't know about you but I have seldomly seen a more desperate man.
Picasso was a revolutionary but not a political one. While most of the ideas of the former political avant garde are out of favor today, Picasso's art still stands firm. This is a simple observation, but should not be taken as a legitimization of anti-intellectualism.