Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pablo Picasso's Guernica




“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” Pablo Picasso

  A couple of weeks ago I attended an exhibition of Picasso’s work. It motivated me to read about his life and it helped me to understand how his art is connected to the social issues of his time and to the turmoil of his personal experiences.
 The reasons I found this exhibition fascinating are the following:
-Picasso was daring. He was not afraid of innovating and he pioneered an art movement called cubism (more on this on a future post).
-The variety of his work amazed me. His art evolved through different phases that correlated with his life and his social setting.
-His long life-- he died at age 91 -- enabled him to create a massive amount of artwork. Interestingly, he lived in two different centuries.

Today I will focus on his most famous masterpiece: Guernica.

  When I was a child my mother gave me a book of famous paintings by different artists. It included riveting explanations about each of the masterpieces. One of them was Guernica. The emotional impact it had on me must have been strong, for I never forgot this painting.
   Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Spain, but he migrated to France. While he was living in Paris he was shocked by the news of the bombing of Guernica, a small Basque town in Northern Spain.
   On April 26, 1937, Nazi airplanes, backed by the extremist right wing forces of General Francisco Franco, bombed Guernica and 1,600 civilians were killed. The small town burned for three days. The attack took place on a Monday because many people who lived on the farms went to the market on that day of the week. Those who tried to escape were shot from airplane machine guns or were blown up with explosives.
  Pablo Picasso’s rage at this atrocity inspired him to paint "Guernica", which is described as "the most important work of art of the twentieth century". When he painted it, Picasso intended to expose the suffering and desperation that are inevitably attached to any war.
  Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting. It is 11 feet tall (3.5 m) and 25.6 feet long (7.8m). Most of the people in the painting express despair and terror. 
  If we go from left to right, the first figure  we see is that of a woman. You can almost hear her shrieking. She is holding her dead baby. Her eyes express profound anguish. Her naked bosom suggests that she might have been nursing her baby when the bombings struck the town.
  The next thing you see is a bull. The image of it is controversial. He is merely a witness of the woman’s grief. There are different interpretations about the bull. Some people believe that the bull could be somebody who, like Picasso, watches these calamities as an outsider: he is not physically wounded, but he is emotionally touched. Picasso refused to attribute a meaning to it, but bulls are a recurrent element in his artwork (the “minotauro" has the head of a bull and the body of a man) and he associated it with lust and behaviors or emotions that are out of control.
  There is a horse lying in agony. It symbolizes the suffering of the people of Spain, a country ravaged by war. There is chaos all around.
 A dead soldier is lying on the ground; his eyes express pain. His fight had no influence on the outcome of the bombings of Guernica. His arm is grasping a sword and a bunch of flowers. The flowers may represent his ideals, or they may be a symbol of  hope. On the right side of the painting there is a woman on fire.
  The painting is done in black, white and different shades of gray, most likely to depict a gloomy atmosphere. It may also be a symbol of the fact that the news of the war spread through newspapers.
    Guernica was first exhibited at the 1937 World’s Fair held in Paris as part of a display of Spanish art. After this exhibition it traveled to England, Spain and Scandinavian countries. Then it toured the United States of America. It is now exhibited in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.
 Had it not been for Picasso, the bombing of Guernica might have been forgotten by the world. Yet the theme of this painting is timeless and powerful. 
      

23 comments:

  1. Yes, one of his masterpieces. I enjoy art, too.

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    1. Thanks, Richard. I'd like to write another post on his life and art.

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  2. Hi Julia,

    Although I was aware of the history behind Picasso's Guernica, your vivid articulation added an extra dimension about the man. And now I've got a song by Paul McCartney and Wings, swirling in my mind. The song titled, "Picasso's Last Words."

    "The Grand Old Painter Died Last Night
    His Paintings On The Wall
    Before He Went He Bade Us Well
    And Said Goodnight To Us All.
    Drink To Me, Drink To My Health
    You Know I Can't Drink Any More
    Drink To Me, Drink To My Health
    You Know I Can't Drink Any More"

    Have a pleasant remainder of your weekend, Julia.

    Gary

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    1. Thanks, Gary! I checked the song on you tube. Lovely. I love Paul McCartney. Again, thank you for your contribution and I'm glad to know that I added another dimension to your body of knowledge.

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  3. Absolutely stunning!! It's an amazing depiction and you've certainly explained it to me with more clarity than I'd ever hope! Yay! thank you! Take care
    x

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    1. Wow, Old Kitty. You made my day with this comment. Thanks.

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  4. An amazing artist! Thank you for such a well-written tribute of this work!

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    1. Thanks, Nellie. It's good to know that you enjoyed it.

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  5. Picasso ties with Dali for my favorite artists of all time. Guernica is my all time favorite painting!

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    1. Excellent JJ. I am planning to write another post about his life and his art. I will include some of his interesting artwork.

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  6. I appreciate the history you tell of Picasso's life and the meaning behind the painting.

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  7. Great post, Julia. Excellent background and description for this extremely powerful work of art. I love this painting, too, and have seen it a couple of times while visiting Madrid, and never fail to find it moving.

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    1. Lucky you, Kimberly! Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this!! I have always been so fascinated by Pablo Picasso

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    1. You are welcome, Keith. Good to know you like it too! Have a fabulous week.

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  9. Oh thank you for sharing this. Guernica is such a powerful and symbolic piece of art. It took me years to fully understand Picasso's art, it's so powerful and so alive.

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    1. Thanks, Angelika. It is very powerful indeed.

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  10. Hi Julia .. I'm late, but wanted to finish the A-Z before I deviated.

    I heard Michael Portillo talk recently - he was an MP, possibly going to be leader of the party, but lost his seat, found a new career taking us on train journeys using a Bradshaw's Guide from the 1840s onwards to 1853 when George Bradshaw died ... but his Guides haven't!

    Portillo has a Spanish father and Scottish mother, who met while helping a few of the only refugees allowed to land in Britain from Guernica.

    Recently there was a programme on Channel 4 on Guernica which Portillo presented .. it was extremely interesting ..

    Portillo's father was in the Resistance, while the rest of his brothers etc supported Franco ...

    You've given us an excellent expose here .. and I'm so pleased to read it and your take on Guernica, the painting ... look forward to reading more about Picasso ..

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary. It is never late to make a comment on my blog and I appreciate your detailed one. Very interesting. I am glad you enjoyed reading my post. Talking about ancestors, a maternal great-grandfather of mine was murdered during Franco's regime because he was very outspoken...
      I look forward to writing more about Picasso... Cheers.

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    2. Hi Julia .. I see I'd been to post before .. but yes I'd love to read more about Picasso ... and also about your ancestor ...

      Cheers Hilary

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  12. This post is really incredible, one of the most helpful I have ever read, indeed.
    Absinthe Drinker

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