Pablo Picasso
Dove 1949

Artwork details

Pablo Picasso 1881–1973
La Colombe
Date 1949
Medium Lithograph on paper
Dimensions Support: 567 x 760 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Elly Kahnweiler 1991 to form part of the gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, accessioned 1994
Not on display


Picasso made Dove on 9 January 1949 in the atelier of the printmaker Fernand Mourlot in Paris. It was published by the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, in an edition of five artist’s proofs plus fifty signed and numbered prints on white Arches wove paper, of which this is number nine. It is a simple yet striking composition of a white dove – an acknowledged symbol of peace – on a black background, masterfully rendered in lithographic ink wash. The printmaker Mourlot has called it ‘one of the most beautiful lithographs ever achieved; the soft tones attained in the feathers ... are absolutely remarkable. This plate ... conveys the maximum that can be obtained with lithographic ink used as wash.’ (Mourlot 1970, p.123.)

The Spanish Civil War played a crucial role in Picasso’s outlook. His dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler has stated that Picasso had hitherto been the ‘most apolitical man’ he had ever known: ‘He had never thought about politics at all, but the Franco uprising was an event that wrenched him out of this quietude and made him a defender of peace and liberty.’ (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler with Francis Crémieux, My Galleries and Painters, London 1971, p.108.) After he painted his famous response to the German bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in 1937, Picasso became a symbol of antifascism and specifically of the struggle against fascism of artists and intellectuals. At the end of the Second World War he joined the Communist Party and attended a number of World Peace Congresses (in Wroclaw, Paris, Sheffield and Rome) between 1948 and 1951.

Dove was used to illustrate the poster of the 1949 Paris Peace Congress and became not only the symbol of the Peace Congresses but also of the ideals of world Communism. The Congrès mondial des Partisans de la paix opened in Paris on 20 April. The day before, Picasso’s companion Françoise Gilot had given birth to his fourth child, who was named Paloma, the Spanish word for ‘dove’. At the 1950 Peace Congress in Sheffield Picasso was asked to speak and made a brief speech recounting how his father had taught him to paint doves, which he concluded, ‘I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war.’ (Quoted in Penrose and Golding 1973, p.205.)

Further reading
Fernand Mourlot, Picasso lithographe, Paris 1970, reproduced p.123
Roland Penrose and John Golding, eds., Picasso 1881/1973, London 1973, pp.197-209, reproduced p.206
Giorgia Bottinelli, ‘Pablo Picasso’, in Jennifer Mundy (ed.), Cubism and its Legacy: The Gift of Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004, pp.88-90, 94, reproduced p.95

Giorgia Bottinelli
February 2004

About this artwork