Pablo Picasso – Guernica, 1937, oil painting on canvas, 3.49×7.77m, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous works. This mural-sized oil painting on canvas was done in 1937. He used a palette of gray, white, and black colors to bring out a political statement denouncing the unnecessary sufferings brought about by Nazi bombings.
The nearly 3.5 meters tall by 7.77 meters wide mural depicts people whose lives have been wrenched by the chaos and violence. Part of the mural is a burning horse and a bull that has been gored. The inspiration to create the painting came after the town of Guernica in Basque county located in northern Spain was bombed by Italian and Nazi German warplanes. They had been requested by the Spanish nationalists to do so.
This work became a standard for anti-war support and embodiment for peace. After the completion of the painting, Picasso toured the world and got the Spanish Civil War to the attention of the world. In the process, he also became famous and created other masterpieces that also gained a lot of attention. Guernica was displayed at the Paris International Exposition at the 1937 World Fair and transported to other venues around the world. The painting is now housed in Museo Reina Sofia in the city of Madrid, Spain. This masterpiece is a combination of epic and pastoral styles while the color brings about increased drama and creates a reportage quality that is similar to that of a photographic record.
There are several interpretations to the mural. While on one part it is clear that the mural speaks against the war, the horse and the bull represents other characters in the Spanish culture. The bull has been used on several occasions as the motif of destruction. It is believed, that in the context of the mural, it could mean the onslaught of fascists. Picasso later said that the bull also meant doom and darkness, which came later in the world and Spanish history. The horse, in this case, represented the people of Guernica that were being bombed.
Picasso had initially been commissioned by the Republican government of Spain to work on a mural for the Paris Exhibition. However, when he learned of the bombing in his motherland, he abandoned the original idea and began working on something that showed his displeasure for the war. This piece did not gain attention at the exhibition but became famous when people connected it to what was happening in Spain.
Pablo Picasso – Guernica, 1937, oil painting on canvas, 3.49×7.77m
Guernica by Pablo Picasso in Amsterdam, being hung in the Municipal Museum 12th July 1956. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Pablo Picasso standing at Guernica in his workshop at Grands-Augustins, Parigi 1937. National Museum of Art Reina Sofía, Madrid. (C) Dora Maar, VEGAP, Madrid, 2017