Pablo Picasso, Guernica, Paris 1937
Guernica is a large mural painting produced by Pablo Picasso for the World’s Fair Spanish Pavilion in 1937. It is 11 feet tall and 25.6 feet long painted in tones of black, white, grey, and pains grey. He produced the painting in about three months. It was a reaction the bombing of the village of Guernica in the Basque region in Spain. The town was completely leveled by German bombers. This type of warfare was only made possible with the technological advances in science. The production of larger capacity aircraft allowed for more and larger bombs to be carried in a single plane load.
World War II is largely a continuation of WWI and the settlement that resulted. War technologies that had emerged in WW I were refined in WW II. Guernica speaks to some of the effects of technology. There is a bare light bulb in the center of the piece that offers a sense of sterile clean light and speaks to the industrialization that had and was taking place during this time period. Juxtaposed to the light bulb is an oil lamp held by a wailing woman. There is a broken sword under the galloping horse, an image of a once strong weapon being shattered by a new power.
The Basque region in Spain is the mythological and traditional birthplace of the Spain, so bombing it really was an attack by the modern new world on the older culture. Guernica captures the dangers posed by rapidly advancing technology when used in the wrong way.
I personally love the painting and find it deeply moving. It was the first masterwork of art that I exposed too beyond the Mona Lisa. I learned about the painting when I was about 9 years old and saw the PBS special on it. I love that it is in black and white and the size of it is amazing. I also think that the time by painting it so fast he captured what was happening in Europe with the war. The images are haunting and graphic, but intentional all at the same time. I could relate to the piece very much. As I have become older I have learned to love it even more. I do think that it is a powerful anti war piece.
I liked the way Picasso styled the piece so much that in my painting class last year I did an Alaska version of the Guernica. After that project I grew to appreciate Guernica even more. I have included the piece for comparison.