Removing a work of art from the context in which it is normally found can have surprising consequences, and the exhibition “Cartoons on the Front Line” at the Museu Picasso is a clear illustration of this.
Dream and Lie of Franco [plate 1, state II]. Paris, 8 January 1937. Etching and sugar aquatint on copper plate, printed on Montval laid paper
The prints are from the Museum’s permanent collection. By showing them in the new setting of this exhibition, their identity is enhanced and they are related to a multidisciplinary group of over one hundred and twenty works.
The ‘socialization’ of the two prints with this group of works has led to a discovery that goes beyond the strict confines of Picasso studies. This discovery emerged not only from the research but also and above all from the close understanding between cultural workers, workers in the service of the public.
This discovery is related to the well-know poster ¿Qué haces tú para evitar esto? [What are you doing to prevent this?], which for many years remained anonymous, until the experts Carlos Pérez and Horacio Fernández identified the artist as Mariano Rawicz, a Ukrainian graphic artist and designer who settled in Spain in 1930.
Left | Photograph taken in Barcelona on 22 November 1936 (photographer unknown), ANC Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya, Sant Cugat del Vallès.
Right | Photomontage ¿Qué haces tú para evitar esto?, Mariano Rawicz, 1937. Postermil Collection, Barcelona.
The photomontage shows a weeping mother with her child in her arms. The posters specialists were aware of the existence of the photograph but knew nothing about its provenance or documentation. After many unsuccessful attempts to trace it we contacted David Balsells, chief curator of Photography at the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). He referred our request to Merche Fernández at the ANC (Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya). It turns out that the picture was from the photo archive of the Generalitat de Catalunya’s Propaganda Commissariat, which was set up and directed by Jaume Miravitlles, and is now in the ANC.
We now know that the woman in the photograph was weeping for Buenaventura Durruti, who had died in Madrid on 20 November 1936 and was buried in Barcelona on 22 November. The photograph that Rawicz manipulated to make the collage is from the report, by an unidentified author, of the anarchist leader’s funeral commissioned by the Propaganda Commissariat. The exhibition is also screening the documentary film about the death of the leader of the Durruti Column, produced by Laya Films, from the archive of the Filmoteca Nacional de Catalunya.
Co-curator of the exhibition “Cartoons on the Front Line”