After proclaiming it to be the best two weeks of his life 73 years ago, Poland found itself in awe of the stars as Pablo Picasso embarked on a mini tour of the country .
Originally intended as a three-day visit, the official reason given for the lengthening of his stay was that it allowed the artist to attend an official ceremony to receive an award from President Bolesław Bierut.
Equally likely, however, was Picasso’s apprehension of flying. But perhaps, as impossible as it may seem these days, it has truly been a magical time for the artist – certainly, there is a lot to suggest.
The reason for his visit had been quite simple; still traumatized and under the shock of the war, Poland – and more particularly Wroclaw – had been chosen to host the World Congress of Intellectuals for the Defense of Peace.
Invented by the authorities of the Soviet Union and Poland, the conference would serve as a showcase for the good intentions of the communist world while subtly denigrating the objectives of the Western powers.
Held between 25e and 28e In August, a host of speakers and star participants gathered, including the famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht, the famous Soviet writer and propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg, the novelist Aldous Huxley, the poet Julian Tuwim, the legendary British author Graham Greene and the scientist Irène Joliot. Curie – daughter of Marie.
Albert Einstein, meanwhile, sent a letter of support that was relayed to delegates – apparently only after being redacted by censors.
Staying at the Monopol Hotel, where Hitler, a few years earlier, was waving to his henchmen from a balcony, it was there that Picasso sketched a dove on a hotel napkin.
Although historically representative of peace for several cultures, this act alone helped popularize the bird as a symbol of post-war pacifism – today, unfortunately, no trace of the napkin exists. .
Bringing Picasso to Wrocław had in itself turned out to be a bit of a problem.
Installed at the time in the south of France, Picasso had received a visit from a delegation of high-ranking Polish officers who begged him to attend.
Some claim that his decision to come was made while he was considering the proposal while swimming in the sea; others report that he was only convinced after seeing a serial number tattooed on the arm of an Auschwitz survivor.
Regardless, his positive response was viewed as a coup by the Polish state which ignored the fact that Picasso did not have a passport and sent a Soviet Li-2 plane to fly him. from Paris.
Looking at Poland from above, Picasso would have expressed his joy at the patchwork of strangely shaped fields below. “My God,” he exclaimed, “this is pure cubism”.
While the congress was successful in attracting big names, there is no doubt that Picasso was everyone’s biggest sensation.
Posing happily for photographs and signing autographs (reputedly in ink that quickly faded), he was enthusiastically followed wherever he went by curious admirers.
When it was his turn to speak at the congress (he took the opportunity to express his support for the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda), the room “froze” to pay attention to his words.
“It was as if an electric current had swept the room,” the newspapers wrote.
The stories don’t end there. Cartoonist Eryk Lipiński later recalled being stunned when Picasso entered a public toilet and took a seat next to him.
“My hands were shaking and I couldn’t urinate,” Lipiński said, “if only a photographer had been there to take a picture! “
There were other times as well. During a vodka dinner at the Monopol, Picasso took off his shirt after complaining about the heat. From their perch at the bar, some women complained that “a Czech man was undressing in the restaurant”.
By the end of the conference, Picasso was not done with Poland. Rather than leaving, he instead traveled by train east to Warsaw.
Recognized by the ticket collector, he was ushered into an elegant car and performed a belly dance with an umbrella after a fan declared his unwavering dedication.
In the Polish capital, his appetite for the country has shown no sign of abating. Staying at the Bristol Hotel, his activities included a tour of the ruined city and a visit to the National Museum where he handed over a series of hand painted ceramics.
Having previously praised Cybis’ paintings and Dunikowski’s sculptures in Wrocław, he again expressed his appreciation for Polish artists as he was escorted through the museum’s exhibits. A heavy smoker, he was allowed to smoke while walking.
Keeping a busy schedule, other notable events included a dinner at Bagatela 10 alongside artists and politicians and a reception hosted at an artists’ canteen in Saska Kępa on August 31 – unveiled in 1989, plaque recalls this ephemeral visit to Obrońców 28/30.
Krakow came next, and although less is known about this leg of his journey, we do know that he took the opportunity to grab hold of the folk and mountain outfits that first impressed him during the exhibition in Wrocław – later his partner, Françoise Gilot, models one as the subject of his painting ‘A Woman in a Polish Coat’.
Back in Warsaw, he received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta with star at a gala at Belvedere Palace and also made a trip to Wilanów Palace before being flown back on September 6. .e.
Not to be underestimated, the impact of his visit has been enormous, and amply proven by the fact that a plaque he dedicated to the Bristol Hotel is now considered one of the Warsaw Museum’s treasures. .
Famous, not all traces of Picasso have been so carefully preserved.
Before the end of his trip, the artist toured the WSM housing estate in the Koło district by its designers, architects Helena and Szymon Syrkus.
Built in a modernist style, the estate was presented as proof of the visionary new thinking adopted by Warsaw.
Quite impressed, Picasso took out a piece of coal he had picked up on the construction site and drew his version of Warsaw’s mascot, the mermaid, on the wall of one of the apartments presented to him.
Replacing the creature’s sword with a hammer, it was a giant work measuring 1.7 by 1.8 meters. It wasn’t just its dimensions that caught the eye, either.
A surprised witness reportedly said: “And her breasts were huge – like two big balloons. “
Indeed, they were, and word of this impromptu work spread after the artist left Poland. When the new tenants moved into the ul. Deotymy 48, they found themselves besieged by tourists – even Bierut himself showed up once at their doorstep.
Increasingly irritated by the work, the couple who lived there did their best to ignore it, even hanging a curtain on it. Yet their resentment grew, supported by the random school trips knocking on their door.
After writing to the building administrator, permission was granted for the removal of the siren.
“The board of directors of WSM is not opposed to the renovation of premises n ° 28/48 of Deotymy and agrees to have the Mermaid painted on the wall removed by the painter Pikacco (sic)”, we replied. .
It might be apocryphal, but when the workers got to the apartment one of them allegedly looked at the etching contemptuously and asked, “and who the hell did that – my brother-in-law could do better. “
Later interviewed by a magazine, the owner of the apartment defended her actions: “All I can say is that it was not a masterpiece.
And that’s how Warsaw lost an invaluable piece by Pablo Picasso – gone but not forgotten.
To learn more about the Picasso mermaid and his return, click here: https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/picassos-mermaid-returns-to-apartment-wall-66-years-after-being-washed-off -7890