The history of Fernando Gerassi, the artist and fighter, has been the subject of many books and articles. Among the best are: Jean-Paul Sartre's trilogy "The Roads to Freedom," wherein he portrayed as the Spanish painter Gomez who goes off to fight Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), becomes a general and the last defender of Barcelona, escapes to France at the last minute, fights as a colonel in the French Army of the Voges, escapes to Portugal when the French surrender. It's all accurate but stops there as Sartre did not know that Fernando then makes it to the US, is drafted into OSS (Office of Strategic Services) which submarines him back to Spain to set up an underground with the task of blowing up all bridges and roads should Franco allow the Germans to cross Spain to attack the Allies' African landing.
Ilya Ehrenburg covered the Spanish Civil War for Isvestia. In his Memoirs, he often describes as an incredible fighter who, however, is terrified of falling off a roof when he guides the Russian to look into the Alcazar of Toledo, whose siege is under Fernando's command. Fernando explains to him: "to die in battle is one thing, to die falling off a roof is stupid."
In the special Gallimard commemoration of Andre Malraux's 100 year anniversary, the French author is described as having saved Fernando from execution by the Commintern boss Andre Marti, who was furious that Fernando put under tent-arrest all civilian commissars ("they're not soldiers, what do they know about war, and they give order to the soldiers!"). Malraux told Marti he would stop his planes from joining the Republicans if Gerassi was executed, especially since he had just won the Republics greatest victory (Guadalajara).
In Simone de Beauvoir's various volumes of her autobiography, she not only tells the story of how Fernando went off to fight in Spain, abandoning wife and child (me), but describes Fernando's various exhibits, and tells how they all thought of Fernando as a great artist.
In my book, "Talking with Sartre" (Yale University Press) which is currently in bookstores, Sartre recounts how Fernando's paintings at the famous show of Spanish artists at first The International House, then every year at Le Salon des Sur-Independants, Fernando's oils are touted even more than Picasso's. In 1954, when I went to see Picasso, he quipped: "If that jerk hadn't gone to fight the Fascists, he would be more famous than me today!" I was so impressed with Picasso, as he showed me his work and put me up in his studio that I forgot the conversations. But Sartre remembered it.
Reviews of Fernando Gerassi's shows appeared in all major French, Spanish and Italian papers before the war and very all glowing. So were the few that appeared in Boston and New York after he started exhibiting after 1967 in the US. Time magazine ran two color prints of his work and a glowing review in 1956, and he was given two pages in its "Three Hundred Years of American Art".
~ John (Tito) Gerassi.