Month: January 2011

Guernica; Picasso's Masterpiece

Posted January 27, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Art / 0 Comments

In 1937 the Spain was at war; a civil war between the Republic Government and Francisco Franco’s Francoist army. Franco led a rebellion army to overturn the government and bring communism to the Spanish people. The Francoist army had the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On April 26, 1937, 24 planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica. The town held no military significants, the objective; to send a message.

This tragedy effected many people including Picasso, and with a commissioning by the Spanish Republican government, Picasso set to work on a mural which would become his most famous piece of work. The painting, Guernica, broke Picasso out of a creative drought and renewed a passion, but now he did not want to be known as an icon breaker. Now, he set to work to create an icon.

The painting was 11 x 25.6 feet reflects the devastating effect of the bombing.   while early sketches showed images of hope and optimism, this faded and we are left with this powerful painting. We can pull a lot of meaning from this painting and many spend time analysing it. Like the ever-seeing eye; the focus of everyone’s gaze and could be a symbol of evil or the bombers, the light bulb in the eye symbolising the devastating effect of technology or maybe it’s there because the Spanish word for light bulb is “bombilla”, which makes an allusion to “bomb”. Some symbols in the painting may be easier to recognise, like the open palm of the dead soldier is a stigmata, a symbol of martyrdom. No matter what you see in the painting, it truly is a masterpiece that stirs up a lot of emotion.

I would love to hear what you see and think of the painting but I would like to leave you with a story I’ve heard about Picasso, the painting, during World War 2.

During the 1940’s Picasso’s studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins was often visited by German officers. On one of their raids a Gestapo officer found 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.  “Take it? Souvenir”


Picasso – The Icon Breaker

Posted January 21, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Art / 0 Comments

Pablo Picasso is known as the pioneer of the avant-garde art movement known as Cubism; a modern art (almost surrealist) style which involves objects being broken up, analysed, and re-assembled in an abstract form. Not only is he known for this art style, but he should also be remembered as an ‘Icon Breaker’. Picasso made it a mission to break from the traditional; not interested in pleasuring the viewer, but trying to get to the core of the person in the painting.

Traditionally, art often depicted a man on a horse, nudes and the classic portraits; but for Picasso, well, let’s look at some examples.

Boy Leading a Horse (1906)
Boy Leading a Horse (1906)

In 1906 Picasso painted “Boy Leading a Horse”.  Most traditional paintings of a man with his horse depict a symbol of power and a man demanding respect; Picasso’s painting did the opposite.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

The ever popular nude was another target for Picasso. In a nude the woman is a simple of grace and beauty, but the 1907’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” showed five nude female prostitutes from a brothel, each woman, in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine.

Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)
Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

When it came to the traditional Portrait, Picasso often painted in the cubism style and painted how he saw his subject. As depicted in paintings like the 1910’s “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler”.

So what changed for Picasso that turned him from the “Icon Breaker” into an “Icon Maker”?

Find out next week


Is The Book Always Better Than The Movie?

Posted January 11, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

Book-into film-adaptations is a tricky subject.  Sometimes it’s easier to take the hard line and say the book is always better than the movie, but this isn’t always the case. With some interesting choices for adaptations coming out this year (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Dark Tower & the upcoming TV series; Game of Thrones) as well as some classics redone (The Hobbit, Jane Eyre & The Three Musketeers), I thought that we should see if we can work out, what makes a good adaptation?

I don’t think it’s fair to say all books are better than the movie.  There have been some great examples to prove this isn’t the case such as Bridget Jones Diary & High Fidelity. In fact, one of the first blockbuster movies was adapted from a very ordinary book (Jaws).

But it doesn’t stop there; sometimes great books do make great movies. These books normally have a strong narrative drive; The Road is a really dense novel, full of ideas, very exuberant prose and great language, yet it made a great movie, surprising many, because of the narrative.

A great adaptation also needs to capture the essence of the book; we want fidelity between the book and the film but there is a problem with this. If a filmmaker does a faithful adaptation to the book the people will say you lack imagination, but if you make a movie without perfect fidelity you run the risk of been chastised by the fans of the book.

One of the major problems with adaptations is the fact that as a novel there are all these different ways of expressing character but as a film writer there is only action. A novel can have thousands of ideas and perspectives but in a film it needs to be distilled into one central idea.  There was a quote from someone who worked on the Harry Potter movies that really explained this; “We’re not trying to hit all the bases and reproduce all the favourite characters and the favourite scenes cos that, in itself, is not enough. The film has to have meaning. And you need to distill that and that’s your job as an adaptor.”

On a rare occasion there comes a movie that takes a creative spin on their adaptation and does it really well. From a modern retelling of Romeo + Juliet & the BBC series Sherlock to the ground-breaking Bladerunner which ignores the central theme of the book almost completely. Taking a completely different direction on a book is often risky but can have surprising results.

‘The book is better than the movie’ may not be a golden rule, (but I think there should be a rule that “You need to read the book before seeing the movie”) however, movie adaptations can successes or failures, and more often than not they do fail. On a side note, I think graphic novels adapt a lot better than a novel ever does, is this because it’s almost a screenplay already? I would love to know some examples of good and bad adaptations, as well as your opinions on the subject.


A Look Back at 2010

Posted January 7, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Writing / 0 Comments

With 2010 now behind us, I thought it was time to review some of my favourite posts and book of the year. I’ve been neglecting my blogging a little, as I’ve been focusing on my reading (ended up reading a total 87 books for the year). I’m hoping 2011 will be different; currently aiming for one post a week.

Blog Posts

10. Trying to Understand Existentialism

9. Twin Peaks and Dream Interpretations

8.  Five Books That Changed My Life

7. René Magritte’s The Lovers

6. My Goals for Knowledge Lost

5. Poetic Shock

4. Evolution of the English Language

3. Education Vs. Passion

2. Did Pop Culture Destroy Literature?

1. Nec Spe, Nec Metu (Without Hope, Without Fear)

Favourite Books Read in 2010

10. Fatherland by Robert Harris

9. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

8. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

5. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

4. Maus by Art Spiegelman

3. On Writing by Stephen King

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë