This week marks 60 years since the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, bringing an end to the Korean War. The conflict was the first military offensive of the Cold War and its repercussions continue to this day.
The conflict provoked Pablo Picasso, a devoted Communist, to put brush to canvas to express his outrage at America’s participation in the war. Massacre in Korea blended Picasso’s distinct Cubist style with a design based on The Third of May 1808, painted by Francisco Goya during the Napoleonic Wars.
Massacre in Korea was first exhibited in the May Salon of 1951, causing instant controversy. Denounced as ‘subversive’ in France and the United States – with MoMA director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., describing the work as ‘anti-American propaganda’ – the painting was (conveniently) dismissed as an ‘aesthetic failure’ in comparison to Picasso’s earlier anti-war masterpiece, Guernica.
Image: Pablo Picasso, Massacre in Korea, 1951. Courtesy Musée national Picasso, Paris