The 25th of this month marks Picasso’s 125th birthday. Although Picasso’s work was largely inspired by his famously extreme joie de vivre, his long life also spanned and bore witness to the principal horrors of the last century. Yet in the 33 years since his death, the world has become a bleaker and more uncertain place. Picasso immeasurably enriched our lives with the unutterable beauty and poignancy of his art, but, as he said, “Painting is not made to decorate apartments; it’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.”
Those of us in Picasso’s thrall would do well to remember that his work is not merely decorative, that it rises above ornament to celebrate all that is beautiful and right with our world, and to shout out all that is horrible and wrong. In 1950, at one of the Congresses of Intellectuals for Peace in which he participated, Picasso gave a short speech ending with a distillation of his entire life into a single, short sentence, “I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war.” With his unquenchable thirst for life, Picasso would undoubtedly prefer to have stuck around to celebrate his birthday with us. Short of that, I feel certain that this is how he would like us to remember him and his art. So in this special month, let us kindly remember the man who has touched us so deeply and who has forever transformed the way we see our world. May we transform his vision into peace.