In 1937 the Spain was at war; a civil war between the Republic Government and Francisco Franco’s Francoist army. Franco led a rebellion army to overturn the government and bring communism to the Spanish people. The Francoist army had the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On April 26, 1937, 24 planes bombed the Basque town of Guernica. The town held no military significants, the objective; to send a message.
This tragedy effected many people including Picasso, and with a commissioning by the Spanish Republican government, Picasso set to work on a mural which would become his most famous piece of work. The painting, Guernica, broke Picasso out of a creative drought and renewed a passion, but now he did not want to be known as an icon breaker. Now, he set to work to create an icon.
The painting was 11 x 25.6 feet reflects the devastating effect of the bombing. while early sketches showed images of hope and optimism, this faded and we are left with this powerful painting. We can pull a lot of meaning from this painting and many spend time analysing it. Like the ever-seeing eye; the focus of everyone’s gaze and could be a symbol of evil or the bombers, the light bulb in the eye symbolising the devastating effect of technology or maybe it’s there because the Spanish word for light bulb is “bombilla”, which makes an allusion to “bomb”. Some symbols in the painting may be easier to recognise, like the open palm of the dead soldier is a stigmata, a symbol of martyrdom. No matter what you see in the painting, it truly is a masterpiece that stirs up a lot of emotion.
I would love to hear what you see and think of the painting but I would like to leave you with a story I’ve heard about Picasso, the painting, during World War 2.
During the 1940’s Picasso’s studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins was often visited by German officers. On one of their raids a Gestapo officer found a postcard of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1937 lament for the Basque town bombed by the Luftwaffe.
“Did you do this?” asked the German.
“No, you did!” replied Picasso. “Take it? Souvenir”