Color Wheel is a series in which we identify a trending color in art, and post a daily image that illustrates its popularity. This week’s color is red.
Fake Communist Christmas cards have been making the rounds of the Internet. (Thanks, MetaFilter!)
These wished-for cards of a bygone era are okay funny: In one, a pretty cranky Santa (like a red-suited Krampus) spouts out lyrics for the working class like “Merry Christmas from the Capitalist swine! Here’s to profits, greed, and the assembly line!” So alright, they’re fake; we doubt these cards will have much historical impact, but this wacky revisionism does point out some real fears of the Cold War-era. Like the fear that U.N.I.C.E.F. was hiring Communist artists to design their annual Christmas cards.
The number one suspect? Pablo Picasso.
From “The Truth About UNICEF,” a letter circulated by the United Nations Association of the U.S.A in June 1969:
Providing for the welfare of children in need is without question a most worthy project — but not when such efforts are used as a facade by the International Communist Conspiracy …. U.N.I.C.E.F. shows where its allegiance lies by constantly choosing artists who have collaborated with Communist causes to design its Christmas cards.
Pablo Picasso, perhaps the best known of all the artists chosen by U.N.I.C.E.F., designed a card for them in 1961. The following year he received the Lenin Peace Prize from a spiritually sensitive soul in Moscow named Nikita Khrushchev. Did you know that Picasso has belonged to the French Communist Party since 1944? And that the December 1966 issue of the Marxist magazine New World Review praises him as a “life-long Communist”?
Oh, boy. These public fears didn’t really effect Picasso’s reputation much in the long-run. And while the FBI kept a personal file on the artist from the 1940s through the 1970s, labeling him a “Security Matter — C” (for Communist) and a possible “Subversive,” nothing much came of these allegations. In the 1980s, the New York Times took a close look into the FBI’s file on Picasso, and while the artist was undoubtedly a Communist, though not an active one, they couldn’t find any evidence of his being a security threat. Well, the more you know.