Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 






The World Wars and Interwar Period 

1914-1945


 


The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


 



Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937

 

 

 


Spain and Portugal 
 


1914-1945
 

 

In Portugal and Spain, strong right-wing authoritarian movements gained influence in the 1930s. While a dictatorial system was quickly established in Portugal, a bloody and devastating civil war with international involvement raged in Spain between leftist and rightist forces from 1936 to 1939. The victorious General Franco erected a brutal and long-lasting military dictatorship in Spain.

 


see also:
Federico Garcia Lorca


collection: Salvador Dali

collection: Pablo Picasso

 

 

Federico García Lorca


Federico García Lorca

Spanish writer

born June 5, 1898, Fuente Vaqueros, Granada province, Spain
died August 18 or 19, 1936, between Víznar and Alfacar, Granada province

Main
Spanish poet and playwright who, in a career that spanned just 19 years, resurrected and revitalized the most basic strains of Spanish poetry and theatre. He is known primarily for his Andalusian works, including the poetry collections Romancero gitano (1928; Gypsy Ballads) and Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (1935; “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías,” Eng. trans. Lament for a Bullfighter), and the tragedies Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding), Yerma (1934; Eng. trans. Yerma), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (1936; The House of Bernarda Alba). In the early 1930s Lorca helped inaugurate a second Golden Age of the Spanish theatre. He was executed by a Nationalist firing squad in the first months of the Spanish Civil War.

Early years
The eldest of four children born to a wealthy landowner and his schoolteacher wife, Lorca grew up in rural Andalusia, surrounded by images and social conditions that influenced his work lifelong. At age 10 he moved with his family to Granada, where he attended a private, secular institute in addition to a Catholic public school. Lorca enrolled in the University of Granada but was a hapless student best known for his extraordinary talents as a pianist. He took nine years to complete a bachelor’s degree. Despite plans to become a musician and composer, he turned to writing in his late teens. His first experiments in prose, poetry, and drama reveal an intense spiritual and sexual malaise along with an adolescent devotion to such authors as Shakespeare, Goethe, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, father of Hispanic Modernismo, a late and decadent flowering of Romanticism.

In 1919 Lorca moved to the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, a prestigious and socially progressive men’s residence hall. It remained his home in the Spanish capital for the next decade. His fellow residents included the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the artist Salvador Dalí, who later became a close companion. In Madrid, Lorca also befriended the renowned older poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and a circle of poets his own age, among them Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, and Pedro Salinas.


Federico García Lorca


Early poetry and plays
A consummate stylist, Lorca sought throughout his career to juxtapose and meld genres. His poems, plays, and prose often evoke other, chiefly popular, forms of music, art, and literature. His first book, Impresiones y paisajes (1918; Impressions and Landscapes), a prose work in the modernista tradition, chronicled Lorca’s sentimental response to a series of journeys through Spain as a university student. Libro de poemas (“Book of Poems”), an uneven collection of predominantly modernista poems culled from his juvenilia, followed in 1921. Both efforts disappointed Lorca and reinforced his inherent resistance to publication, a fact that led to frequent delays in the publication and production of his work. Lorca preferred to perform his poems and plays, and his histrionic recitations drew innumerable admirers.

The Spanish stage director Gregorio Martínez Sierra premiered Lorca’s first full-length play, El maleficio de la mariposa (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies, 1970), a symbolist work about a lovesick cockroach, in Madrid in 1920. Critics and audiences ridiculed the drama, and it closed after four performances. Lorca’s next full-length play, the historical verse drama Mariana Pineda (written 1923; Eng. trans. Mariana Pineda), opened in 1927 in a production with sets by Dalí and received mixed notices.

In the early 1920s, Lorca began experimenting with short, elliptical verse forms inspired by Spanish folk song, Japanese haiku, and contemporary avant-garde poetics. He wrote a prodigious series of brief poems arranged in thematic “suites,” later collected and published in 1983 under the title Suites. (Virtually all of Lorca’s poetry—that contained in the volume under discussion and in the other Spanish volumes mentioned in this biography—has been translated in Collected Poems, 1991). In 1922 Lorca collaborated with the eminent Andalusian composer Manuel de Falla on a festival of cante jondo (“deep song”) in Granada. The endeavour heightened Lorca’s interest in popular Andalusian song, and in a blaze of inspiration he wrote a series of poems based on songs of the Andalusian Gypsies (Roma). Even more compressed than Suites, Poema del cante jondo (written 1921–25, published 1931; Poem of the Deep Song), offers a radical synthesis of the traditional and the avant-garde. The series signaled Lorca’s emergence as a mature poet. His collaboration with Falla further prompted Lorca to investigate the Spanish puppet theatre tradition, and in 1923 he wrote Los títeres de Cachiporra (“The Billy-Club Puppets”), the first of several versions of a puppet play inspired by the classic Andalusian Grand Guignol.

From 1925 to 1928, Lorca was passionately involved with Salvador Dalí. The intensity of their relationship led Lorca to acknowledge, if not entirely accept, his own homosexuality. At Dalí’s urging, the poet began to experiment more boldly with avant-garde currents in the art world, notably surrealism, although he refused to align himself with any movement. In poems such as “Oda a Salvador Dalí” (1925–26; “Ode to Salvador Dalí”), Canciones (written 1924, published 1926; Songs), and a series of abstruse prose poems, Lorca sought to create a more objective poetry, devoid of private sentiment and the “planes of reality.” He joined his contemporaries in exalting Don Luis de Góngora, a 16th-century Spanish poet known for his dispassionate, densely metaphorical verse. Lorca and his fellow poets commemorated the tricentennial of Góngora’s death in 1927 and became known thereafter as the “Generation of 1927.” Lorca also sought to articulate in public lectures his own evolving aesthetic.

Meanwhile, Lorca continued to mine the popular Spanish tradition in his plays La zapatera prodigiosa (written 1924, premiered 1930; The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife), a classic farce, and El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín (written 1925, premiered 1933; The Love of Don Perlimplín with Belisa in Their Garden in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies, 1970), a “grotesque tragedy” partially drawn from an 18th-century Spanish comic strip. Both plays reveal themes common to Lorca’s work: the capriciousness of time, the destructive powers of love and death, the phantoms of identity, art, childhood, and sex.

In 1928, with Dalí’s encouragement, Lorca publicly exhibited his drawings. A gifted draughtsman blessed with a startling visual imagination, Lorca produced hundreds of sketches in his lifetime.


Federico García Lorca


Romancero gitano
The publication in 1928 of Romancero gitano (written 1921–27; Gypsy Ballads), a poetry sequence inspired by the traditional Spanish romance, or ballad, catapulted Lorca into the national spotlight. A lyrical evocation of the sensual world of the Andalusian Gypsy, the collection enthralled Spanish readers, many of whom mistook Lorca for a Gypsy. The book’s first edition sold out within a year. Throughout the work’s 18 ballads, Lorca combines lyrical and narrative modes in fresh ways to form what he described as a tragic “poem of Andalusia.” Formally, the poems embrace the conventions of medieval Spanish balladry: a nonstanzaic construction, in medias res openings, and abrupt endings. But in their wit, objectivity, and metaphorical novelty, they are brazenly contemporary. One of the collection’s most famous poems, “Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard,” reads, in part:

Los caballos negros son.
Las herraduras son negras.
Sobre las capas relucen
manchas de tinta y de cera.
Tienen, por eso no lloran,
de plomo las calaveras.
Con el alma de charol
vienen por la carretera.

Black are the horses,
the horseshoes are black.
Glistening on their capes
are stains of ink and of wax.
Their skulls—and this is why
they do not cry—are cast in lead.
They ride the roads
with souls of patent leather.

Lorca’s sudden fame destroyed his privacy. This, coupled with the demise of his friendship with Dalí, the collapse of another love affair, and a profound spiritual crisis, plunged Lorca into severe depression. He sought both release and newfound inspiration by visiting New York and Cuba in 1929–30.


Later poetry and plays
Lorca’s stay in the United States and Cuba yielded Poeta en Nueva York (published 1940; Poet in New York), a series of poems whose dense, at times hallucinatory images, free-verse lines, and thematic preoccupation with urban decay and social injustice mark an audacious departure from Lorca’s previous work. The collection is redolent of Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Eliot, and Stephen Crane and pays homage to Walt Whitman:

… hermosura viril
que en montes de carbón, anuncios y ferrocarriles,
soñabas ser un río y dormir como un río
con aquel camarada que pondría en tu pecho
un pequeño dolor de ignorante leopardo.

… virile beauty,
who among mountains of coal, billboards, and railroads,
dreamed of becoming a river and sleeping like a river
with that comrade who would place in your breast
the small ache of an ignorant leopard.



Federico García Lorca

In Cuba, Lorca wrote El público (“The Audience”), a complex, multifaceted play, expressionist in technique, that brashly explores the nature of homosexual passion. Lorca deemed the work, which remained unproduced until 1978, “a poem to be hissed.” On his return to Spain, he completed a second play aimed at rupturing the bounds of conventional dramaturgy, Así que pasen cinco años (1931; Once Five Years Pass), and he assumed the directorship of a traveling student theatre group, La Barraca (the name of makeshift wooden stalls housing puppet shows and popular fairs in Spain), sponsored by the country’s progressive new Republican government.

With the 1933 premiere of his first Andalusian tragedy, Blood Wedding, an expressionist work that recalls ancient Greek, Renaissance, and Baroque sources, Lorca achieved his first major theatrical success and helped inaugurate the most brilliant era of Spanish theatre since the Golden Age. In 1933–34 he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to oversee several productions of his plays and to give a lecture series. While there he befriended the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, with whom he collaborated on a tribute to Rubén Darío. Despite his new focus on theatre, Lorca continued to write poetry. With others in the Generation of 1927, he embraced a “rehumanization” of poetry, as opposed to the “dehumanization” José Ortega y Gasset had described in his 1925 essay “The Dehumanization of Art.” Eloquent evidence of Lorca’s return to the personal are Divan del Tamarit (written 1931–1934, published 1940; “The Divan at Tamarit”), a set of love poems inspired by Arabic verse forms; Seis poemas galegos (written 1932–1934, published 1935; “Six Galician Poems”); and Sonetos del amor oscuro (written 1935, published 1984; “Sonnets of Dark Love”), an 11-sonnet sequence recalling a failed love affair. The three collections underscore Lorca’s abiding insistence on the interdependence of love and death:

No hay nadie que, al dar un beso,
no sienta la sonrisa de la gente sin rostro,
ni hay nadie que, al tocar un recién nacido,
olvide las inmóviles calaveras de caballo.

There is no one who can kiss
without feeling the smile of those without faces;
there is no one who can touch
an infant and forget the immobile skulls of horses.


Divan del Tamarit also expresses Lorca’s lifelong interest in Arab-Andalusian (frequently referred to as “Moorish”) culture, which he viewed as central to his identity as an Andalusian poet. He regarded the Catholic reconquest of Granada in 1492 as a tragic loss. Divan del Tamarit responds to a widespread revival of interest in Arab-Andalusian culture, especially literature, in the 1930s.

In 1934 Lorca responded to the goring and death of a bullfighter friend with the majestic Lament for a Bullfighter, a work famous for its incantatory opening refrain, “A las cinco de la tarde” (“At five in the afternoon”). The four-part poem, his longest, confirms Lorca as the greatest of Spain’s elegiac poets.

A las cinco de la tarde.
Eran las cinco en punto de la tarde.
Un niño trajo la blanca sábana
a las cinco de la tarde.
Una espuerta de cal ya prevenida
a las cinco de la tarde.
Lo demás era muerte y sólo muerte
a las cinco de la tarde.

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready preserved
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.



Federico García Lorca

During the last two years of his life, Lorca premiered Yerma (1934), the second of his Andalusian tragedies, and completed a first draft of The House of Bernarda Alba, his third tragedy. Childhood events and personalities inform both Bernarda Alba and Doña Rosita la soltera (written 1934, premiered 1935; Doña Rosita the Spinster), the most Chekhovian of Lorca’s plays, as well as Don̄a Rosita’s intended sequel, the unfinished Los sueños de mi prima Aurelia (1936; “The Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia”). In 1935 Lorca undertook his most overtly political play, El sueño de la vida (“The Dream of Life”), a technically innovative work based on recent events in Spain.

Lorca was at work on Aurelia and Bernarda Alba in the summer of 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. On August 16, he was arrested in Granada by Nationalist forces, who abhorred his homosexuality and his liberal views, and imprisoned without a trial. On the night of August 18 or 19 (the precise date has never been verified), he was driven to a remote hillside outside town and shot. In 1986 the Spanish government marked the 50th anniversary of Lorca’s death by erecting a monument on the site of his murder. The gesture bears witness to Lorca’s stature as the most important Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century, a man whose work continues to influence writers and artists throughout the world and to speak to readers everywhere of all that is most central to the human condition.

Leslie Anne Stainton

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 




see also: Federico Garcia Lorca


collection: Salvador Dali

collection: Pablo Picasso





Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca



Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali



Caesar or Nothing


Dali's friendship with Lorca deepened, and at a crucial point in Dali's life, as man and artist, the answering echo of his beloved Lorca helped him define his own quest and identity. Presently, however, the friendship was displaced by a more amorous interest on the part of the poet from Granada, and Dalf later recalled: "When Garcia Lorca wanted to possess me, I spurned him in revulsion." Given Dali's penchant for fabrication, we shall never know what really happened between the two constant companions. We can only say that shaking Lorca's hand was then apparently Dali's most frequent physical contact with any other person; his experience of women seems still to have been limited, and he always claimed that he was a virgin when he met Gala.

Until that meeting, which changed Dali's life, he and Lorca had been inseparable, affectionately drawing each other's portraits and sharing enthusiasms. For example, there was a portrait of an Ampurdan officer and politician, Josep Margarit, in the hall of Dali's parental home, and both he and Lorca were entranced by it, not least on account of the subject's outrageous moustaches, which they envied. The closer Dali became to the Surrealists, however, the cooler the friendship with Lorca grew; and, despite the fact that the poet even wrote an ode to him, Dali put a brutal end to the friendship. And indeed, the man who preached the destruction of intellectual life at an event at the Barcelona Athenaeum in 1930, the man who announced the time had come to trample on finer feelings and humanitarian instincts, no longer had much in common with the sensitive poet. Even so, Dali wrote handsomely of Lorca in the Secret Life: "At the very outbreak of the revolution my great friend, the poet of la mala muerte, Federico Garcia Lorca, died before a firing squad in Granada, occupied by the fascists. His death was exploited for propaganda purposes. This was ignoble, for they knew as well as I that Lorca was by essence the most apolitical person on earth. Lorca did not die as a symbol of one or another political ideology, he died as the propitiatory victim of that total and integral phenomenon that was the revolutionary confusion in which the Civil War unfolded." It is true that Dali, when asked once by a journalist whether he was much affected by the shooting of Lorca, replied, "It satisfied me deeply." But Dali, of course, made a career of intentionally shocking people.

In the 1920s, Dali was still concentrating on proving to the world that he was a genius, and conquering Pans. In 1926 he refused to sit the Academy examinations, declaring the San Fernando professors incompetent to assess him; and this position resulted in his final expulsion from the Academy. Paris remained. Paris, in Dali's imagination, beckoned. Joan Miro, Catalonian, an elder and already established artist, helped persuade Dali's father that Paris was the right course, making the trip to Figueras with art dealer Pierre Loeb for the purpose. The notary was impressed, and began to wonder whether Paris might not indeed be the wisest strategy for his son; Miro admired Dali's most recent work, and offered his assistance; while Pierre Loeb, for his part, remained more sceptical. At one point, Dali reported, Miro took him aside and whispered that Parisians were far greater asses than they (the Catalonians) imagined, and that Dali would find that things in Paris were not so easy after all. Once Miro had himself returned to the French capital, he wrote to Dalipere urging that a visit to Pans would be invaluable and closing with the flattering words: "I am absolutely convinced that your son's future will be brilliant!"


Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca
in Figueras, 1927



 


Triple Portrait of Garcia Lorca
1924



 



 








Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca
 


Portrait of Federico Garcia Lorca
1926-27

 

 







Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca


Self-Portrait Dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca
1928

 








The Poet on the Beach of Ampurias - Federico Garcia Lorca
1927
 

 

 



see also:

ROBERT CAPA
 


Spanish Civil War



Robert Capa

 


1936
 


Spanish Loyalist
 

Cordoba Before
the Fall

Robert Capa was more than a war photographer, even if it was his war scenes that made him famous. In the end, his estate comprised more that 70,000 negatives - but that of his most famous picture is accounted lost.

 

Finally, he has acquired a name. For decades, he was merely an unknown soldier, a nameless victim of war. He, or rather his picture, stood symbolically for the millions of deaths lost to war and violence. The caption affixed to the image was as brief as it was general: Loyalist Soldierwas the most usual title. Or Falling Soldier, or even Loyalist Militia - but this reference to the Anarcho-Syndicalists who fought on the Republican side of the war attempted a more exact identification than the picture really allowed. For as many critics have rightly noted, this photograph drew, and still draws, its power precisely from its generalization of death. Only insofar as the photograph stands for a reality that passes beyond time can it function as an icon of dying in a higher sense. As late as 1984, the writer Peter Hartling, in his lectures on poetics given in Frankfurt-am-Main, addressed the issue of the "absence of data on the Soldier" and asked whether it was proper to create something like an identity for him. Ac-cording to Hartling, "He cannot have been a soldier after the model of a Malraux or Hemingway, but rather one of those who were buried - nameless among thousands of nameless - in the Cemeteries of the Moon, as Georges Bernanos described them in helpless protest." Hartling answered his own question: "No, I would not give him a name." But now we know the facts: the name of the soldier is Federico Borrell Garcia. He was twenty-four years young, came from Alcoy in southern Spain, and died on 5 September 1936 on the Cordoba front near Cerro Muriano.
 

Robert Capa
(1913-1954)

Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, 1936

 

 

The most exciting shot of battle action

 

The soldier's death is documented in the files of the military archives of Salamanca, to which we will return later. The photographer Robert Capa, then aged twenty-two, captured the instant of the soldier's death - and at the same time created what is probably his most famous photo. There is no information about the picture; not even Magnum, the agency co-founded by Capa and which still holds the rights to the picture under entry number CAR 36004 W000X1/ICP 154, has data about its circulation and reception. Nonetheless, historians and biographers agree on the unique status of this picture. To cite just a few voices: the Capa scholar Richard Whelan speaks of "the most exciting and immediate shot of battle action" ever taken; Russell Miller in his recent book on Magnum declares it to be "the greatest war photograph ever taken"; the German illustrated Stern (41/1996) termed the photograph "a symbol of the Spanish Civil War and later the ultimate image for the anti-war movement"; and finally, Rainer Fabian, in his article on more than 130 years of war photography, speaks of "the most legendary and most-published war picture in history." According to Fabian, "War photography is the use that one makes of it"; that is, a war picture defines itself primarily through the way it is used. Robert Capa's photograph of the Spanish Loyalist was not the first picture to emerge from a war, but is stands as "the first compelling action shot taken during wartime" (Carol Squiers). One tends to treat such superlatives with skepticism; after all, many photographs and films also emerged from the First World War, at a time when Capa's pre-ferred working camera, the Leica, was not yet on the market. In those days, photojournalists had comparatively large and clumsy cameras, weak lenses, and glass negatives that debarred quick reactions or sequences. Notwithstanding, one cannot exclude the possibility that among the many thousands of photographs taken, there might be a picture of a death that is at least the equal of Capa's. What had certainly changed since the end of the First World War, however, was the situation of the media. War pictures were now treated differently, as photographs found a forum in the newly created illustrated press. As a result, there was now a demand and, in many lands, a largely uncensored public sphere. In short, a change in paradigms had taken place.

 


Double-page spread from Life: advertising and editorial in absurd, almost cynical competition with each other

 


Double-page spread from La Revue du Medecin, 30 September 1936:
 the first issue of the magazine for doctors and pharmacists published Capa's pictures .
 

 

The blossoming new genre of illustrated magazines

 

The specific character of the Spanish Civil War must also be kept in mind. For most Europeans, it was a distant civil war which one nonetheless regarded with curiosity because here - quasi symbolically for the rest of

the world - the struggle between the Left and the Right, between Communism and Fascism, was being fought out. In other words, in this age before television there was a strong and international interest in pictures that the new genre of illustrated magazines, which had blossomed into being since the 1920s, knew how to satisfy. Advances in printing techniques, new forms of distribution, and revolutionary layout techniques allowed the improved reproduction of images more quickly and attractively than had been possible earlier, and supplied them to the readers. In addition, a new generation of photographers had appeared: equipped with faster cameras and a new understanding of their role. The field now included photojournalists, adventurers, and parvenus who personally stood - or were supposed to stand - for the originality, seriousness, and authenticity of a story. It is not by chance that reports became more and more personalized. When the English illustrated Picture Post devoted all of eleven pages to Robert Capa's civil war photographs in December 1938, the cover clearly proclaimed him to be the greatest war photogra-pher in the world. This was not the first publication of pictures from Spain, but it was the start of a myth that is still effective today. He was young and obviously ambitious, a photographer with leftist sympathies, a charmer, a ladies' man, gambler, and adventurer all in one -thus we can imagine Capa in those years. In addition, he was undoubtedy a "concerned photographer," who above all believed in himself, his talent, skill, and courage to achieve good pictures. His real name was Endre Erno Friedman, and he had been born in Budapest in 1913, the second of a tailor's three children. Even as a boy, he was alert and knew how to take his life in hand. In 1931 he moved to Berlin, studied at the Academy for Politics, and earned a bit of money at the legendary Dephot agency, where he carried coal, handled the laboratory work, and at some point was also permitted to take a camera into his own hands. Photographs of the camerashy Leo Trotsky are said to be the beginning of his career as a photographer. Even here, Capa already succeeded instinctively and with a good deal of chutzpah in a brilliant report. "Ifyour pictures are no good," he is reported to have said, "you didn't get close enough."

 

The first to recognize the visual power of the photograph

 

Hitler's takeover hindered the further development of Capa's career, at least in Nazi Germany. Like so many of the photographic guild - Stefan Hungarians - Capa, who was Jewish, felt forced to emigrate. Only after he moved to Paris did the talented novice with a sense for themes change his name to Robert Capa - a man whose work was in fact not at all limited to war photography, even if it was primarily his war reports that carried him to fame.

These were restless times politically. Spain was caught up in civil war since July 1936. An alliance of right-wing generals, large landowners, nobles, and the Catholic Church had risen up against the elected popular-front government. Political upheaval was also threatening France, with workers on strike since May to force the leftist government under Leon Blum to undertake social reform. Precisely where Capa stood politically is unknown, but a picture published in the left-oriented illustrated Vu from 3 June 1936 testifies to his interest in the workers' strike. Similarly, during the Spanish Civil War we can identify at least a modicum of sympathy for the Left in Capa, who had been inspired by Karl Korsch and his ideals of a people's front in Berlin. What in any case is certain is that in early August, Capa and his long-term companion Gerda Taro set out for Spain to document the two-week-old conflict from the perspective of the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Capa photographed in Barcelona and on the Aragon front, then went on to the Huesca front, until he finally arrived at Cordoba, where he took the picture that would be his most famous.

The Spanish Loyalist initially appeared in Vu, No. 447, on 23 September 1936. The picture occupies the upper left half of a double-page spread entitled "La Guerre Civile en Espagne." Responsible for the layout was Alex Liberman, later art director of the American Vogue, who thus was the first to recognize the visual power of the photograph. Under the picture, Liberman also placed a variant, thus conveying the rhythm of a film to the sequence of images - although close observation indicates that there are really two protagonists depicted here. There is no reference to place, time, or even the names of the dead. The caption remains general in content, speaking in pathos-filled tones about the whistle of a bullet and blood being drunk by the native soil. The next to publish the picture was life, in its issue from 12 July 1937. Under the heading "Death in Spain," the magazine marked the first anniversary of the beginning of the war and spoke of the victims - Life reported half a million lives had been lost. The article opened with Capa's photograph in large format, although slightly cropped on the right. Two days later, the Communist magazine Regards, which had already published several of Capa's reports, also published the photograph. Capa himself gave it a prominent position on the cover of his book Death in the Making (New York, 1938), along with other photo-graphs he and Gerda Taro had taken in Spain. He still, however, absolved himself of the duty to provide data on the location, time, or circum-stances of the picture.

Soon the photograph began to provoke questions; doubt as to its authenticity began to make the rounds. Life commented on the moment in which the solder is struck by a bullet in the head. But even a close examination of the picture fails to reveal a bullet wound any¬where on the body. One also might ask oneself how a man hit by a bullet while he is storming down an incline can fall backwards. Speculation also arose over the blossom-white uniform, hardly appropriate for the battle field. Furthermore, it is strange that Capa photographed the soldier from the front: wouldn't this necessarily imply that he had rushed ahead of the militiaman? On the other hand, there is just as much that argues against the thesis that Capa staged the photograph, including his very professionalism as a photographer. It hardly would have been necessary for him to have staged such a picture. And that one of the members of the Confederacion National del Trabajo (CNT) should have stooped to act out his own death appears equally implausible. Nonetheless, in the course of several interviews, the British journalist O'Dowd Gallagher re-ignited the discussion over the credibility of the photograph in the 1970s when he declared that he had shared a hotel room with Capa near the French border at the time the photo was made, and that later, Loyalist soldiers staged useful photos for the press. Elsewhere, however, Gallagher speaks of Franco's troops in Loyalist uniforms who carried out the deception. But, as Richard Whelan points out, aside from the journalist's self-contradictory testimony, Capa as a Jew and a self-declared anti-fascist would have found it difficult to work together on a project with the Falangists.

 

The key picture of a longer sequence

 

Neither can the original negatives offer further information, for they have disappeared. Capa himself spoke about the picture only once, in an interview on September 1937. According to a paraphrase by a journalist for the New York World Telegram, Capa and the militiaman had both been left behind by the troops: "Capa with his precious camera and the soldier with his rifle. The soldier was impatient. He wanted to get back to the Loyalist lines. Time and time again he climbed up and peered over the sandbags. Each time he would drop back at the warning rattle of machine-gun fire. Finally the soldier muttered something to the effect that he was going to take the long chance. He climbed out of the trench with Capa behind him. The machine-guns rattled, and Capa automatically snapped his camera, falling back beside the body of his companion. Two hours later, when it was dark and the guns were still, the photographer crept across the broken ground to safety. Later he discovered that he had taken one of the finest action shots of the Spanish war." Was Capa really alone with the militiaman? His biographer Richard Whelan expresses doubts on this point. After all, the key picture is one of a larger sequence in which several pictures clearly depict both of the soldiers who were later killed - one in the midst of a momentarily care-free group of CNT militiamen, and another in a leap over a trench. Furthermore, in the battle our protagonist is clearly recognizable. But there is something else that is suspicious: the two photographs of a wounded and a falling soldier published in the Vu issue of 1936 must have been taken at approximately the same time, judging by the unchanged cloud formations. The perspective is also identical. Finally, the argument for the existence of two militiamen is supported by a more exact look at their clothing. One of the soldiers is wearing a white shirt and trousers; the other, a kind of worker's overall. On one soldier, the leather suspenders follow a straight line down to the trousers; the other soldier wears them crossed. "If one then looks closely at the ground in the Falling Soldier photograph and in the variant image," argues Richard Whelan in his biography of Capa, "and compares the configuration of prominently upstanding stalks, it becomes obvious that the two men are shown falling on almost precisely the same spot. (The Falling Soldier is about one foot closer to the photographer than is the man in the other picture.) We may well then ask why it is that although the two men fell within a short time of each other...in neither picture do we see the body of the other man on the ground."

 

 

The truth is the best picture

 

Neither Whelan nor Capa's younger brother Cornell, who administered the estate left by Capa after he was killed by a mine in 1954 in Indochina, have ever allowed a doubt to be raised about their belief in the truth of the documentary photograph. Furthermore, according to Whelan, it's "a great and powerful image... To insist upon knowing whether the photograph actually shows a man at the moment he has been hit by a bullet is both morbid and trivializing, for the picture's greatness ultimately lies in its symbolic implications, not in its literal accuracy as a report on the death of a particular man." Whelan's biography of Capa was published in the USA in 1985. Exactly ten years later, a certain Mario Brotons Jorda edited and published his memoirs on the Spanish Civil War under the title Retazos de una epoca de inquietudes. Brotons had himself fought on the Cordoba front. In Capa's famous photograph he recognized the leather bullet pouches that were made in exactly that fashion only in Alcoy, and that only the militiamen from Alcoy carried. Based on various indications in Capa's photograph, Whelan had dated it to 5 September and deduced that the location was somewhere around Cerro Muriano. And in fact, as Brotons was able to find out in the State Archive in Salamanca, there was only a single militiaman from the Alcoy region who was killed on 5 September 1936 on the Cordoba front near Cerro Muriano: Federico Borrell Garcia. When Brotons then showed Capa's photograph to a surviving brother of the deceased soldier, he identified the victim as Federico. Thus, according to Richard Whelan, the story had come full circle. Capa's "Loyalist," according to the Stern "really did fall in battle." And thus the overall credibility of the photographer was rehabilitated. As Capa expressed it at the time in an interview with the World Telegram: "No tricks are necessary to take pictures in Spain. You don't have to pose your camera [i.e., pose your subjects]. The pictures are there, and you just take them. The truth is the best picture..."

 

 

Robert Capa

Robert Capa (Budapest, October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954) was a 20th century combat photographer who covered five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris. Capa's younger brother, Cornell Capa, is also a photographer.

 

 

Robert Capa. Pablo Picasso et Francoise Gilot , 1948

 

 

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