Taking a Closer Look at Picasso’s Guernica

The Bombing of Guernica

The town of Guernica is located in Spain, in the Biscay province of the Basque region. At the time of the Spanish Civil War, it was the northernmost area that supported the Republican resistance movement and the centre of Basque culture, which made it a target of the Nationalists.

The Nationalists who were led by General Francisco Franco sought to return to the days of old Spain with more traditional values, where the Republicans were made up of socialists, communists, anarchists and other various factions.

In the morning of April 26, 1937, the city of Guernica was bombed by the German command of Wolfram von Richthofen for two straight hours. Germany had lent support to the Nationals so that the Nazis could test their new tactics and weapons prior to the beginning of World War II. The bombing devastated the town and was a great hardship on the townspeople for years.

 

Pablo Picasso’s Take on War

Pablo Picasso was in Paris at the time half-heartedly working on a mural for an exhibition to be held there in the upcoming summer. When he heard about the bombing, he immediately abandoned his work and in May 1937, he began working on Guernica. It is what he presented at the Paris exhibition, where it attracted little attention. Later on, it became a symbol against the destruction of war and its effects on the lives of the innocent.

Guernica was a powerful statement against war itself and how the war obliterated the lives of the innocent. The artwork was panted in black, blue and white, but the anguish of the people in the painting was quite vivid and apparent with arms thrust in the air and open-mouthed suffering on the faces of the people.

 

The Bull and the Horse

The painting is fairly large being 11 feet tall and 25.6 feet wide, and currently is shown in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. It is fairly obvious what the theme and the message of the mural is about, since Picasso himself said that the bull in the mural meant darkness and destruction. The bull and the horse are important symbols in Spanish culture, and Picasso has used both of these to play many roles in his paintings.

The painting has become an icon and one of Picasso’s greatest works as its statement against war and destruction points out the folly of war and the fact that it is not a good answer for disagreements in cultures.

Some have tried to give different interpretations of the painting saying that it was not meant to be political, but that is a ridiculous interpretation when Picasso stated that the bull represented the dark forces of destruction and evil, and the horse was the representation of the people of Guernica.

The mural has been displayed around the world and has become very famous and well received, and the showing of the painting brought the Spanish Civil War to the attention of the world. Its statement in regard to war is a sentiment widely held by many.