“Guernica”

Pablo Picasso, "Guernica." 1937, oil on canvas.
Pablo Picasso, “Guernica.” 1937, oil on canvas.

 

I’m back! The holidays got the best of me & I decided it would be better to just start back strong once things calmed down! I realized I hadn’t yet posted an artwork from one of THE most (in)famous artists of the modern era. Pablo Picasso lived until he was 91 years old – and he worked almost as long. That makes for a HUGE body of work. One of his most famous, and most compelling works is “Guernica.” Although Picasso lived and worked in Paris for much of his life, he was a tried and true Spaniard. So when German and Italian planes bombed a small Basque village during the Spanish Civil War (at the request of none other than General Franco) it was fitting that Picasso’s outrage would come out in the form of a 12’x25′ graphic memorial to those who lost their lives in April of 1937. More than a landscape, “Guernica” appears as an unending nightmare; the screaming victims cries do not resolve, yet appear choked off. It is reported that the majority of Guernica’s inhabitants would have been congregated in the center of the small town for market day – being unable to escape once the bombing commenced. (Ironically, the factory on the outskirts of town that was the bombings target came through the attack still standing, while the Guernica itself was largely decimated.) Picasso heard about the attack via newspapers and this accounts for the abstract newsprint that rises like flames through the composition. This is purely my speculation – but I’ve always seen the bull as representing Picasso himself here (he often compared himself to the ‘toro’ – masculine, strong, the epitome of a Spaniard) but the expression on this bulls face is one of shock and a complete lack of understanding: how could the world be this way? Further, he looks directly at the audience, begging us to answer his questions and consider our own complacency. This was a loud, brash statement. It’s scale, its horror, its social commentary are unable to be ignored, and “Guernica” has forced its way into infamy just like its creator.

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