In Discussing Picassos Guernica, The Author Indicates That The Paintings Ultimate Accomplishment Was
The author of this excerpt discusses the relationship of art to history and politics, particularly during the period of political violence, persecution, and upheaval immediately preceding the Second World War.
In his famous poem on the death of the Irish poet and visionary W. B. Yeats, the English poet W. H. Auden wrote, "Ireland has her madness and her line weather still/ For poetry makes nothing happen." Elsewhere, Auden, with his characteristic and endearing honesty, commented that all the verse he wrote, all the political views that he expressed in 1930 did not save a single Jewish person from Nazi persecution. "Those attitudes," he wrote, "only help oneself": Artists and politicians would get along better at a time of crisis like the present, if the latter would only realize that the political history of the world would have been the same if not a poem had been written, nor a picture painted, nor a bar of music composed. This, of course, is an empirical claim, and it is difficult to know how true it is because it is difficult, to explain in historical terms. In any case, as we know, even works intended to prick our consciousness to political concern have tended to provoke at best admiration for the works themselves and a moral self-admiration on the part of those who admired them. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the cynical bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica by Nazi warplanes made the painting Guernica, which expressed the horror of the event, happen. Therefore, it was not merely wit when Guernica painter, Pablo Picasso, answered a Nazi officer who showed him a postcard of the painting and asked, "Did you do that?" with "No, you did." Everyone knew who did what and why: the bombing was an atrocity meant by its perpetrators to be perceived as an atrocity committed by is ruthless fighters. The painting was used as a fundraiser for the victims of the war in Spain, but those who paid money for the privilege of filing past it, only used it as a mirror to reflect attitudes already in place, and in later years it required art-historical, knowledge to know what was going on it hung in the Museum of Modern An as a handsome back-drop, and it was sufficiently attractive in its gray and black harmonies that an article on interior decoration described how a copy of the painting ornamented a sophisticated modern kitchen where fancy meals were concocted for bright and brittle guests. So, in the end, it did about as much for the devastated townspeople as Auden verses did for the people and causes he wrote about, making nothing relevant happen, simply memorializing, enshrining, spiritualizing, about at the same level as a solemn ritual whose function is to confess the extreme limitation of our powers to make anything happen. Fine, some would say. But if the sole political role? But if poetry is this deflected, consolatory, ceremonial - not to say reliquary - office, why is the political attitude that art is dangerous so pervasive in our society? The history of art is the history of the suppression of art. This suppression is itself a kind of futility if the art that one seeks to cast in chains has no effect whatsoever, and one confers upon the art the illusion of competency by treating as dangerous what would make nothing happen if it were allowed to be free. Where, if Auden is right, does the belief in the dangerousness of art come from? Indeed, construing art, as Auden does, as a causally or politically neutered activity is itself an act of neutralization. Representing an as something that in its nature can make nothing happen is not so much a view opposed to the view that art is dangerous as it is a way of responding to the sensed danger of art by treating art as though it were nothing to be afraid of.
In discussing Picassos Guernica, the author indicates that the paintings ultimate accomplishment was
(A) providing a politically effective condemnation of an atrocity (B) heightening political consciousness among its viewers (C) commemorating a terrible event (D) gaining Picasso recognition as a political activist (E) revealing the versatility of Picassos artistic talent