Picasso in Warsaw – the sad story of the Warsaw Mermaid

adamsky73 (CC0), Pixabay

Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists in the history of art. His works are worth millions and became an important part of modern pop culture, symbolism, etc. Picasso changed the world of art. Wherever he appeared, he left something unique. The same story took place in Poland when he arrived in Warsaw and decided to make a homage to one of the most important symbols of this city – the Mermaid.

In 1940s Picasso was a famous painter. Since he presented famous monumental painting Guernica in 1937, there was no place on Earth where his name wasn’t recognized. Picasso was an advocate of world peace. Standing against the fascism, he had to leave his beloved Spain and lived in France. Three years after the end of World War II, Pablo Picasso decided to respond to the invitation and make a travel to Poland.

Picasso in Warsaw

In 1948 Pablo Picasso arrived in Warsaw. It was due to an invitation he received to attend “The World Congress of Intellectuals in Defence of Peace, organized by the Wrocław University of Technology from 25th to 28th August 1948.  It was a life-changing adventure to him. As he said later, it changed his way of thinking about many aspects of life. The capital city was still damaged. He was able to observe the rebirth of the capital of Poland. When he came to Poland, he was shocked by the reality in this country. Three years earlier Europe still suffered due to the horrible experience of the World War II, but what he saw in Warsaw was worse than anything he could ever imagine.

Picasso had a gift of recognizing the charm of great cities, he was always attracted to the beautiful urbanistic structures.  He was shown Le Corbusier-style apartment blocks that were still under construction. In one of them, Picasso spontaneously drew a large-sized mermaid. The mermaid (1.8 meters x 1.7 meters) with a hammer instead of a shield was a simple drawing, perfectly in Picasso’s style.

According to the memories of the witness:

„They took him to the still unfinished building. He liked it and went inside, asked for a ladder and took a black pencil from his pocket. He drew a mermaid. On the wall. Everyone was very happy and thanked him. And then they went away, and the mermaid stayed.

They assigned the flat to a railway worker. He looked around and said that firstly it was inadequate and secondly he had small children, and she had bare breasts. So he didn’t take it, and they called me. I didn’t have any children or any points – the only thing I could have scored on was my activity in the food cooperative, but I wasn’t even a member of it, so when they said there was a flat, I rushed over there.

They told me to sit down. You see – the director said – this isn’t an ordinary apartment, it’s one with a mermaid. Fine, I said. And you see, this apartment must be kept clean because visitors might come by. I’ll keep it clean, I promised; got the keys, opened the door…

My dear madam, what can I say?

It was a Picasso.”

The symbol of Mermaid is one of the most significant ones in Warsaw. There are numerous mermaids throughout the city of Warsaw. The most famous is the zinc-cast mermaid in the Old Town by Konstanty Hegel in 1855.

The sad fate of the Mermaid by Pablo

Pablo was well known of his generosity. He generously painted the mermaid on the wall of the private apartment making it possible one of the most expensive apartments in Poland.

Sadly the married couple who later moved into that apartment didn’t understand how precious drawing they have. They grew weary of all those who wanted to see the drawing and due to this fact they decided to paint it over in 1953. The mermaid was lost forever.

In 2006 one of the polish online stores recycled the story of the Mermaid by putting its image on souvenir mugs and shirts. Although the mermaid doesn’t exist for many decades, it stays a popular motif.

What do you think?

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