For Picasso, painting was a weapon – to be wielded on the side of communism. Adrian Searle revels in Tate Liverpool’s killer new show about the man and his politics – by Adrian Searte – guardian.co.uk
Art and power … Pablo Picasso looks at a picture of Stalin in 1949. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Picasso’s still lifes are less nature morte than life in extremis. He painted skulls and more skulls. His trussed roosters look more like people struggling on a torture table than lunch in the offing. Asked why he painted so many pictures of food, of pots and cutlery jangling in the drawer, of lamplight and gloom during the German occupation of Paris, Picasso declared: “A casserole can also scream! Everything can!” He was also hungry, as was most of Europe. But he refused extra fuel and food coupons, refused to collaborate.
The room of still lifes at Tate Liverpool‘s new exhibition is a killer arrangement of paintings and a small number of sculptures. An owl perched on a chair-back stares at us like an atavistic, simian head, in a painting as bare as an empty larder. A great bronze skull is a cratered cannonball, a damaged weight. One remembers that Picasso’s last self-portrait, a drawing from 1973, the year of his death, is more skull than living head.