Guernica by Pablo Picasso
What is Guernica?
Guernica's painting is painted in black and white, with different types of gray and even blue tones that are hardly appreciated. It is possible that this choice of color is due to the fact that Picasso noticed the bombing by the German aviation of the Basque city of Guernica (1937) through the newspapers. Another explanation is that the painter from Malaga wanted to convey his grief, anguish and indignation by representing this attack as a theatrical work.
To make this huge work (349 x 776 cm), he went through Cubism to give it a more agonizing appearance. The different figures in the painting have large open mouths, wild eyes and deformed bodies.
What is in Guernica?
Guernica is a painting that consists of eight figures that underwent different changes while being painted. It could be said that although Guernica looks like a messy canvas, Picasso studied the position and shape of the different components a lot.
Before starting to paint the final work, he made different studies of what would be the Guernica that we know today.
The canvas is made up of a central pyramid crowned by the light bulb, the candle held by the woman coming out of a window, and the dying head of the horse. This pyramid encloses the body of the horse, the half-naked woman on the right and the mutilated body of the knight on the left.
On the sides of the pyramid we can find a woman with her arms raised and the head of the woman holding the candle on the right. On the left side we can find the bull, upright and impassive to the situation, a Spanish symbol, a woman embracing the dead body of her son and a bird.
The Sketches behind Guernica ...
Picasso used different sketches to make the final Guernica. These sketches have their origin in the boxes of Sueño y mentira de Franco, where in two plates divided into nine comic strips, he ridiculed and criticized Francoism. It is said that Guernica would be vignette number thirteen in this succession of boxes.
In the different sketches of Guernica, the use of cubism is always appreciated, a style followed and appreciated also by the surrealists, in which a figure represents different images, a multiple image.
Why was Guernica created?
During the interwar period, Picasso continued to use cubism both in painting and in collage and sculpture.
The civil war marks a new stage in his life and work. Picasso embraces the cause of the Republic and accepts the direction of the Prado Museum.
Guernica belongs to the mature period of Picasso and is one of the most important works of all 20th century art. It was painted because of the impact that the bombing of this Basque city on April 26, 1937 produced on the painter, a mostly rural city populated at that time by women, children and the elderly, since the men were at the front.
The profound shock that this event caused Picasso is reflected in Guernica, exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris that year.
In Guernica, you can find different symbols: the strong, upright and impassive bull symbolizes the Spanish people, who defended themselves against the Franco regime. At the same time, the horse or the mare that is in the center of the painting, would symbolize the femininity of Spain, and the bird that is flying between the bull and the equine would represent the desire for peace and freedom.
The rest of the characters represent agony, despair and sadness, reflected in the deformed bodies, the open mouths and the wild eyes.