Chim, [Picasso in front of Guernica in his studio, Paris], May 1937 (2012.122.13)
We Went Back: Photographs of Europe by Chim, 1933-1956, curated by Cynthia Young, opened today at the International Center of Photography. The show includes over 140 photographs, mostly black and white vintage prints but also recently discovered color work, as well as original magazines, books and ephemera. Most of the works exhibited were drawn from the collections of ICP, and many of them were never seen before. An example of the treasures included in this exhibition is this portrait of Pablo Picasso in front of his painting Guernica. In February 1937, Chim spent several weeks immersed in the Spanish Basque country, where he photographed the town of Guernica, a historic landmark of the Basque civilization that was to be violently bombed and almost totally annihilated by fascist airplanes a few months later on April 26, 1937. Following this traumatic and unprecedented attack, Pablo Picasso painted one of his most important and impressive pieces, Guernica, which was to be exhibited in July 1937 at the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris International Exposition. Picasso was inspired by photographs he’d seen in the press at the time, not unlike the ones taken by Capa, Taro, and Chim and recently rediscovered in the so-called “Mexican Suitcase.” It was just before the International Exposition, when the painting was still in Picasso’s atelier rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris, that Chim made this iconic portrait of the painter posing in front of his tableau. This is, to our knowledge, the only existing vintage print of this incredibly powerful portrait.
Pauline Vermare, [Installation views of We Went Back: Photographs from Europe 1933-1956 by Chim, International Center of Photography, New York], January 2013