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Pablo Picasso Thumbed His Nose at Nazis in Paris: Lewis Lapham

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Lewis Lapham
Lewis Lapham of Lapham's Quarterly in New York. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- When the Nazis marched into Paris in 1940, many artists fled, while others were deported or killed.

Though offered sanctuary in the U.S., Pablo Picasso chose to stay in the city and keep working.

The most famous painter in the world was not necessarily secure: He’d been denied French nationality and as an ardent supporter of the defeated Spanish Republic, he could at any time be arrested at Franco’s request and deported. Picasso also gave money to the Resistance and sometimes hid fugitives in his home.

His studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins was often visited by German officers. One brought a postcard of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1937 lament for the Basque town bombed by the Luftwaffe. “Did you do this?” asked the German.

“No, you did!” replied Picasso.

I spoke with Alan Riding, author of “And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris,” on the following topics:

1. Jewish Artists Exiled

2. Nazi Censorship

3. Picasso and the Role of the Artist

4. Resistance vs. Collaboration

5. Hypnotized by Ideas

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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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