Rodney Swan deposited Contrée: Picasso’s visual fragmented tailpieces emphasise the poetry of Robert Desnos. in the group War Studies on Humanities Commons 4 years ago
Completed in early 1944, Robert Desnos’s militant series of 25 poems in Contrée evokes memories of a lost peace and calls for the defeat of the German occupiers. Suggesting the desecration of the human body by the occupiers, Picasso cut his cubist–surrealist frontispiece etching of Dora Marr to produce severed heads and dismembered body parts, feet, arms, hands and heart, and used them as fragmented tailpieces to give a visual dimension to the written poems. Reconstituting the 23 tailpieces in Contrée, as in a jigsaw puzzle, it is surprising that not one, but two copies of the frontispiece image emerge. By the multiple use of the seven fragments from one image, Picasso created tailpieces for twelve poems. From the other image, he cut tailpieces for nine poems, discarding two fragments and leaving two poems without tailpieces. This paper provides an analysis of the creation of Picasso’s fragmented tailpieces and argues that the overarching text-image message propagated by Picasso’s visual tailpieces and Desnos’s descriptive poetry is of horror and hope, a message which is also delivered through many individual tailpiece–poem pairings.