Pablo Picasso: Guernica (1937)

(Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain)

A painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). A famous painting which was created in response to the bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). The Spanish civil war was fought between the "republicans" (a coalition of various left wing groups) against the "nationalists" (a coalition of right wing groups) under the command of General Francisco Franco. Both parties in the civil war were supported by Foreign countries: the republicans by the Soviet Union and usually socialists and antifascists from other countries. The nationalists were supported by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and nationalists from other countries. During a nationalist campaign in the Basque region in northern Spain, a group of German and Italian aircraft known as the "Condor Legion" attacked the town of Guernica. On April 26, 1937 several waves of bombers attacked the town during a market day for two hours which destroyed a large part of the town. The number of casualties vary from source to source but ranges from 150 to 1,650. Picasso was asked by the Spanish Republican Government to produce a painting for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris International Exposition in 1937. At first Picasso was uninspired but when be heard of the bombing of Guernica he changed his commissioned work for Spain into a reflection on the massacre. The painting is not a historical representation of the bombing but rather a piece which shows the suffering of the victims and the chaos of the attack. There are several scenes in the painting: a grieving woman with a dead child in her arms, a bull, people who are fleeing their houses, a dead man with a broken sword, a panicked horse, a lam etc. The exact Interpretations of these various symbols vary widely. After the Paris International Exposition the painting went on a tour through Europe and America to bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War and to raise funds and support. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City was entrusted with the safekeeping of the painting which finally returned to Spain in 1981 when Franco had died and democratic institutions were restored (a condition of Picasso for the return of the painting). Painting from 1937.