This photograph shows the British poet and novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner delivering a speech at the Second International Congress of Writers in 1937. The meeting, organised by the Association of Writers in Defence of Culture, was held in Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, with a later session in Paris. In their speeches, the members of the Congress unanimously rejected fascism, which was described as ‘the enemy of culture’, and addressed the social responsibility of writers in times of political crisis. The writers Stephen Spender, Andre Malraux, Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda were among the participating delegates.
The photograph was taken by the German photo-reporter Gerda Taro (born Gerta Pohorylle), who was killed in Madrid weeks later. Taro, together with her partner and fellow war photographer Robert Capa, took some of the most memorable pictures of the conflict in Spain.