At the height of the Nazi occupation of Paris, Pablo Picasso set himself a fresh challenge: using traditional modelling and casting methods, he would complete a large-format sculpture on a classical theme, connected to the traditional iconography of early Christianity; that of the Good Shepherd. The work was completed in a single day, as related by Brassaï, quoting Picasso: “After I don’t know how many studies and months of thought, I did the statue in a single afternoon. First I built the armature. But that is rarely calculated correctly. I got it wrong. It was too weak and wouldn’t hold up. […] threatening to collapse any second. I had to act quickly. [...] We attached ropes and tied El hombre del cordero to the beams. I decided to cast it in plaster immediately. It was done the same afternoon. […] You see these long skinny legs, the barely indicated feet, hardly separate from the ground? I would have preferred to model them like the rest. I didn’t have time. Finally, I left it as it was.” Man with Ram was an artistic and political response to academicism, as represented by Hitler’s favourite sculptor, Arno Breker, who had exhibited at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris in 1942. The work is considered to be a reaction to the atmosphere in occupied France and as the materialisation of an idea, an allegorical personification of freedom and peace that was on Picasso’s mind for over a year, during which time he did more than fifty drawings on the theme, dated between 1942 and 1943.
Carmen Fernández Aparicio