Pablo Picasso is one оf the most prominent and inspiring artists оf the 20th century. He produced work in painting, sculpture, prints, murals, and ceramics; regardless оf the medium, he was always in demand. During the year 1937, Picasso agreed to paint the centerpiece for The Spanish Pavilion оf the 1937 World’s Fair. For months Picasso was searching for inspiration for the mural, distracted by his sullen mood and dissatisfaction оf his work, he continued to put it off. This came to an end on April 28, 1937.
In less than two months, Picasso had created Guernica, modern arts most powerful antiwar statement. To fully appreciate the intensity and power оf Guernica, it is imperative to understand the story that precedes it. The attack on Guernica was planned on a Monday, market day in the village; most оf the population would be out in town. Church bells began to ring, warning оf the approaching aircraft. Germany’s best-equipped bombers fired more than one hundred thousand pounds оf high explosive bombs onto the village оf Guernica.
People began to scurry into shelters only to find out that the shelters were not strong enough to withstand the powerful bombing that lasted three hours. Entire families were burned or buried in the ruins оf the village, along with their cattle and sheep. When the fires subsided, three days later, the center оf Guernica had been completely destroyed. The Basque government estimated that 1654 people had died and another 889 were injured during the air raid.
However, the government was never able to establish an exact count, soon after the attack, nationalist forces overran Guernica. Soon after news оf the bombing reached Paris, Picasso began his work on the mural, which would be called Guernica. Standing eleven and a half feet tall by almost twenty-six feet wide, the oil painting on an unbleached canvas is done in monochromatic harmony, using only values in the gray scale. The painting is full оf symbolism, however, Picasso never committed to a specific explanation, leaving interpretation up to the viewer.
The speculations as to the exact meanings are numerous and varied, however, it is obvious that the universal theme in Guernica, is the horrors оf war and the massacre оf innocent people. Towards the left оf the painting there is a woman, screaming as she holds the body оf an injured or possibly dead child. In front оf her lays a lifeless soldier, a broken knife in his hand, above him a horse that has been speared in the side. On the far right there is a woman screaming in pain as she is stuck in a burning house.
There is also a bull head in the upper left hand corner, that has been interpreted in many ways, for example, some people see it as a representation оf Spain and Spanish values and culture, some believe it represents the victory оf the Nazis, some go as far to suggest that the bull is Picasso himself, helplessly looking over the bloody massacre. A light bulb was added at the top оf the painting above the head оf the horse, some suggest that it was added to shed light on the atrocities оf war; others believe it represented the bombs that were dropped that day.
Picasso didn’t try to recreate the war on canvas; there is no town, no airplanes, and no explosions. However, Guernica is a protest to the brutalities оf war. Because Picasso chose to keep his meanings оf the symbolism personal, he lets the viewer develop their own ideas and meanings. While Picasso didn’t comment much on the symbolism he did reiterate on the paintings obvious anti-war statement: “My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a struggle against reaction and the death оf art.
In the picture that I am painting – which I shall call Guernica – I am expressing my horror оf the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean оf misery and death” – Pablo Picasso. Picasso has painted the images оf the faces in such a way that they seem to reach out and scream for help, they know that they are about to die. His work on Guernica challenges our idea and notion that war is an act оf heroism and shows it for what it truly is – a brutal act оf self- destruction. In 1973, Pablo Picasso died at the age оf 92.
On the anniversary оf his birth, October 25, 1981, Guernica returned to Picasso’s native soil. It is now showcased at The Riena Sofia, Spain’s national museum оf modern art. Works Cited Fernande Olivier, Pablo Picasso, and Ramon Rentevos picture. http://www. madrid. org/museopicasso/PicassoyArias/galeria/Gpicasso01. htm Getlein, Mark. Living With Art. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2002. Penrose, Roland. The Sculpture оf Picasso. New York Museum оf Modern Art (1967) First edition. 232p. 260 illustrations