Guernica and The Massacre in Korea

Pablo Picasso Guernica (derecha)
oil on canvas / 109.5 X 209.5 cm

Picasso's Massacre in Korea and Hockney's new The Massacre and the Problems of Depiction
Pablo Picasso's 'Massacre in Korea' (1951; in the Musée Picasso, Paris), the painting shown on the cover of War & Genocide, is based on a massacre of Korean civilians by US forces at No Gun Ri from 26-29 July 1950, which has remained controversial to this day. Korean survivors claim that they were bombed by the US airforce on 26 July, and subsequently fired on by US soldiers in a tunnel into which large numbers had fled, leading to over 300 deaths.
Half a century later, after an indefatigable campaign by Korean survivors, in 1999 Associated Press reporters found US veterans who confirmed the massacre story. The US Army was finally forced to confront the allegations and established an official investigation into the episode, whose Report of the No Gun Ri Review was published in January 2001. Its findings concluded that while 'the Korean descriptions of the airstrike/strafing are compelling' (p. 178), 'any accidental airstrike/strafing ... was not a pre-planned attack on civilian refugees.' (p. 181) It argued that 'the deaths of civilians, wherever they occurred, were an unfortunate tragedy inherent to war and not a deliberate killing' p. 185).
Picasso's painting was doubly controversial in its time. It not only endorsed claims of massacre that were denied by the US. It was also criticised within the French Communist Party (PCF), of which Picasso was a member, for not conforming to a socialist realist style. The painting has never achieved the iconic status of the earlier Guernica (1937), but it has remained one of Picasso's most explicitly political works, a point of reference in various situations. Thus it is claimed that while 'Picasso refused to condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary [in 1956], his painting "Massacre in Korea" was used by people in the streets of Warsaw to show their support for the victims of the tanks. This infuriated the PCF but secretly pleased Picasso.'
I chose 'Massacre in Korea' for my cover because it exemplified, in a way that photographs could not, my theme of deliberate armed violence against civilians as the connection between war and genocide. By coincidence, in the same week that the book was published, a new painting by David Hockney, The Massacre and the Problems of Depiction, a reworking of Picasso's, was reproduced in the Times Literary Supplement (2 May 2003). In a short commentary (unfortunately online access is not freely available), Hockney suggests that both the Picasso and his new work are 'a painter’s response to the limitations of photography, limitations that are still with us, and need some debate today'.
Mark Lawson commented in The Guardian that 'Hockney's watercolour reply consists of two images, the topmost more or less reproducing the Picasso although the bodies are a vivid pink against the grey of the original. This may reflect different palettes or, perhaps, a desire to stress that these victims are full of blood. Hockney also paints more children, partly to obscure the genitals of the mothers, which the Spaniard enthusiastically brushed in. We may take from this change that one of Hockney's concerns about war photography is prurience and the risk of liberal porn. ... The military side of the picture has been altered more: Hockney's troops have guns which resemble microphones (or "mike-guns", as they are sometimes known in TV) and are also holding a piece of equipment (rectangular with spools) which looks rather like a video-camera. Hockney seems to be making a connection between soldiers and photographers, the rifle and the camera. His implication is that Picasso was saying the same.'

The source http://www.martinshaw.org/warandgenocide/massacre.htm


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