Tate Liverpool; Until 30 August 2010
The Picasso exhibition in Liverpool gives us a remarkable insight into this artist's tremendous political commitment over four decades - a commitment in which his activism and creativity were so successfully brought together in the fight for a better future.
I went to the exhibition with my son, 12, and we were instantly drawn in by The Charnel House - a painting reminiscent of Guernica which documents the bombing and destruction of a Spanish family by Franco's forces. As in Guernica, the horror and brutality of war scream out of the picture: the shattered bodies, the hand outstretched for help, the watching, dead eye. My son commented "Although it's about the Spanish Civil war, it could be now, in Palestine or Afghanistan". It is the universal image of war and its victims, and Picasso is survey the unrivalled documenter of the savagery of war.
But what comes out of this exhibition is another side of the artist: Picasso the activist, committed to fighting for a better world for all and placing his art at the centre of this struggle. Picasso joined the French Communist Party in 1944, as the only alternative to fascism and capitalism. He remained a member till his death, maintaining his independence from Moscow and supporting many struggles along the way.
In particular, this exhibition brings together lined drawings produced for posters, leaflets, books, newspapers, meetings and exhibitions. Amnesty for Spanish republicans, Algerian independence, striking French miners, black artists and writers, international women's day - these are just some of the political movements which Picasso supported with both activism and a prolific creativity.
More well known is Picasso's involvement in the peace movement, and his dove of peace is a central theme of the exhibition. Picasso drew it again and again, in different styles, for both local meetings and international conferences such as the Sheffield World Peace Congress of 1950. This is where the real inspiration of Picasso's work lies: for his documenting of horror is juxtaposed with this hope and belief in a better world.
There was a sense of relief, I think, for my son in this vision of a future of peace and justice. Picasso is not only a chronicler of the brutality of war, but a motivator for the struggle to forge a better future. We found it truly inspiring.