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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

Anti-communism in the Cold War

À vous de juger

Joël Kotek

Texte intégral

The top of the first page reads in French: “A vous de juger. Le Parti Communiste a commandé à Pablo PICASSO le portrait de Staline, conforme aux données du réalisme socialiste. Ayant eu de la chance de nous procurer quelques études qui paraissent pouvoir être attribuées au Maître, nous les soumettons au public pour qu’il se rende compte des tâtonnements de l’Artiste et de ses efforts jusqu’à l’Art Suprême“. – ["Your turn to judge. The Communist Party commissioned Pablo Picasso a portrait of Stalin, consistent with the rules of socialist realism. Having had the chance to get a few sketches that seem to be linked to the Master, we subject them to the public so that they can realize the Artist’s gropings and his efforts to the Supreme Art "]. The bottom line of the page reads in French: “Version initiale” – [“The initial version”]  The bottom line of the second page reads in French: “Deuxième version” –[“The second version”]. The bottom line of the third page reads in French: “Troisième version” – [“The third version”]. The top of the forth page reads in French: “…Et voici ce que serait la version définitive dans le cadre voulu:” -[”And here is what would be the final version in the desired setting:”]. The lines under the portrait read in French: “Gloire Immortelle au Génial STALINE Coryphée de tous les Arts” – [“Immortal glory to great STALIN, coryphee of all Arts”] 2-page full-color leaflet (recto-verso), printed by Paix et Liberté [s.d.]; 17.5 x 22 cm.

1This cartoon is a satire on the portrait of Stalin painted by Pablo Picasso. Stalin died on 5 March 1953 after a cerebral hemorrhage in his dacha at Kountsevo not far from Moscow. He was 74 years old and had wielded monolithic power in the Communist world. His funeral in Moscow on 9 March gave rise to scenes of collective hysteria which brought about the death of hundreds of onlookers, trampled to death or suffocated.

2The shock of Stalin’s death reverberated throughout the Communist world and France joined in the general hysteria. The Parisian headquarters of the French Communist Party were entirely draped in black. On 12 March, at the request of its editor, Louis Aragon, Les Lettres françaises, the Communist cultural weekly published a tribute by Picasso to the great Stalin. The departed autocrat was portrayed in youthsome tones, fresh and rosy. Initially, Aragon was relieved. Picasso could have, but did not, portray Stalin as a hero, and as the heroic mode requires, as a nude on a cloud. Nevertheless, Picasso’s tribute was considered a scandal. Protests poured in, immediately and spontaneously. “a horrible drawing,” “an indecent caricature,” “appalling,” “ridiculous,” disrespectful,” “outrageous,” a hideous portrait,” were some of the reactions. Picasso and Aragon had committed a sacrilege by representing him other than as a reassuring elderly man, eternal father of his peoples, in short, in a way which did not correspond to the canons of socialist realism.

3The indignation of the Party was unanimous. The Party secretariat categorically condemned the publication of this unrealistic and unsympathetic drawing:

4“Without putting into question the sentiments of the great artist Picasso, known to all for his affection for the working class, the Secretariat of the French Communist Party regrets that comrade Aragon, a member of the Central Committee and editor of the Lettres françaises who, let it be noted, fights courageously for the development of realistic art, allowed this publication.”

5To repair the damage the Lettres françaises were summoned to publish the letters of disapproval. As for Aragon, he was obliged to offer excuses.

6“[O]ne can invent flowers, goats, bulls and even men or women, but our Stalin cannot be invented because in the case of Stalin, an invention – be it of Picasso himself – is necessarily inferior to reality, incomplete and therefore false.”

Bibliographie

Annette Wieviorka, “Plus Fort que Staline”, L’Histoire, no. 334, October 2008.

Table des illustrations

Légende The top of the first page reads in French: “A vous de juger. Le Parti Communiste a commandé à Pablo PICASSO le portrait de Staline, conforme aux données du réalisme socialiste. Ayant eu de la chance de nous procurer quelques études qui paraissent pouvoir être attribuées au Maître, nous les soumettons au public pour qu’il se rende compte des tâtonnements de l’Artiste et de ses efforts jusqu’à l’Art Suprême“. – ["Your turn to judge. The Communist Party commissioned Pablo Picasso a portrait of Stalin, consistent with the rules of socialist realism. Having had the chance to get a few sketches that seem to be linked to the Master, we subject them to the public so that they can realize the Artist’s gropings and his efforts to the Supreme Art "]. The bottom line of the page reads in French: “Version initiale” – [“The initial version”]  The bottom line of the second page reads in French: “Deuxième version” –[“The second version”]. The bottom line of the third page reads in French: “Troisième version” – [“The third version”]. The top of the forth page reads in French: “…Et voici ce que serait la version définitive dans le cadre voulu:” -[”And here is what would be the final version in the desired setting:”]. The lines under the portrait read in French: “Gloire Immortelle au Génial STALINE Coryphée de tous les Arts” – [“Immortal glory to great STALIN, coryphee of all Arts”] 2-page full-color leaflet (recto-verso), printed by Paix et Liberté [s.d.]; 17.5 x 22 cm.
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