Skip to main content

Art is the reflection of reality, and the actions of art and protest have been linked for many, many years. In fact, this union is one of the main social and political tools in the face of any conflict, in any country, at any time.

There are many artists, aware of the injustices of this society, who decide to confront the problems through their own art, taking sides and raising their voice.

That is why Olga Guarch has decided to dedicate this article to the phenomenon of art as protest, during the last century.

The use of art as protest, as we said, has many years, but its peak is found during the twentieth century. During the first 50 years, it focused on the different wars and revolutions, moving on to student and civil rights protests, and ending with feminist and ecological demands.

  • To reflect the cruelty of the dance world and the prostitution to which the dancers were forced, the French painter Edgar Degas created La Classe de Danse, an oil on canvas dated 1876.
  • Dadaism, appealing to unreason and surprise as a mode of protest, criticized Hitler’s regime in the 1930s, especially with the work of the German John Heartfield, known as the inventor of photomontage.
  • During the same period and as part of the anti-war movement, Picasso’s Guernica reflects the cruelty of the Spanish Civil War and the bombing by German troops of the town of Guernica.
  • During the Second World War and with the artistic movement of warmongering, enemies were caricatured and propaganda was made, with the aim of boosting one’s own morale or undermining that of the opposing side. An example of this is Rosie the Riveter, the worker marking her biceps while rolling up her overalls, under the slogan We Can Do It.
  • In later years and with the Vietnam War, important cultural movements emerged, which referenced well-known works of art. Goya’s painting Saturn devouring his son was used as a representation of the slogan “America is devouring its children”, thus criticizing the deaths of American soldiers during the conflict.
  • In May ’68, France was going through one of its most unstable political periods due to general strikes, university protests, and clashes with the police. The group Atelier Populaire and its images highlighting the workers’ struggle had great relevance in the movement.

And so much for this first part of art as protest, this time during the 20th century. In the next article we will focus on the 21st century, don’t miss it!