The backbone of our exhibition “Cartoons on the Front Line” is the pair of sugar-lift aquatints with scraper that make up Dream and Lie of Franco. Picasso made these etchings in Paris, in June 1937, almost a year into the Spanish Civil War, in order to raise money for the Republican cause.
The context of the exhibition as a whole brings out the true value of the etchings, which can be seen here in all their essence and at the same time socialized, interacting as they do with a multidisciplinary group of works — around one hundred and twenty! — by different artists: paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, illustrated books, documentary films, magazines and posters of authors artists from Goya to Picasso himself by way of Grosz, Heartfield, Helios Gómez, Luis Seoane, Brangulí, Josep Maria Sagarra, Centelles, Pérez de Rozas, Josep Renau, Mauricio Amster, Mariano Rawicz and others.
It is important to highlight here the contribution made by the Salvadoran cartoonist, illustrator and writer Toño Salazar, who did the magnificent illustrations for Rafael Alberti’s book Las Coplas de Juan Panadero (1949), seven of the original drawings for which (the whereabouts of the eighth is unknown) are on show at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona until 29 May, and will subsequently be at the Museo Picasso in Málaga from 20 June to 2 October.
Alfred Jarry. The True Portrait of King Ubu. 1896. Woodcut (test XIV/XX). Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Picasso saw in the character of Ubu created by the French dramatist Alfred Jarry in 1896 a caricature of General Franco, the protagonist of the cartoons that make up the prints: ‘Every man has his caricature, as he has his own life, his own death,’ said Salazar, author of the book Caricaturas 1930, for which the artist Kees van Dongen wrote a foreword.
As a teenager in El Salvador Salazar was an avid reader of the work of the Barcelona cartoonist Lluís Bagaría and of illustrated periodicals such as Simplícissimus, L’Assiette du Beurre and Le Rire. After sojourns in Mexico, Paris, New York, Argentina and Montevideo he returned to El Salvador in 1953.
Salazar was a restless and constantly active artist who liked to listen to the landscape. He said that ‘(The) cities and villages (of El Salvador) have the onomatopoeia of the earthquake: Tonacatepeque, Sonsonate, Zacatelocuca…’.
Noted for his unceasing struggle against fascism and for the rights of peoples, this supremely cosmopolitan man was regarded as a vital link between Europe and America.
Toño Salazar: ‘With a pistol in his coat tails / and a tibia for a cane / Don Paco from Ferrol / goes trampling the Hispanic soil’ (1949). Indian ink on cardboard. Art Museum of El Salvador. Museo de Arte de El Salvador. Toño Salazar Collection, Sagrera Guirola family.
For Toño Salazar ‘The caricature is like one of those many-handed Hindu divinities: it touches everything. It’s like certain gods who are waiting for some slight small provocation to present themselves; it’s like the ghost at the spiritualist’s table: a propitious moment, and we shall be confounded by its appearance. There is a little current, a little intelligent breeze of nonsense that envelops everything, that surrounds every situation, like the oxygen that assists the life of the contradiction that incubates in everything!’
Salazar was a great admirer of Picasso, to whom he dedicated a number of cartoons at different times in his life. At the opening of an exhibition of prints by Picasso in El Salvador, Salazar broke the stunned silence by declaring impatiently: ‘We are giving this great artist what no one has bestowed on him: Silence!’
Claustre Rafart i Planas
Co-curator of the exhibition “Cartoons on the Front Line”