Our latest project centers around this artwork. Entitled ‘Guernica‘ it is a cubist huge mural painted by Pablo Picasso in June 1937. It reaches over 11 foot high and is over 25 feet wide. The painting was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was exhibited at the Spanish display at the Paris International Exposition in the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and then at other venues around the world. The touring exhibition was used to raise funds for Spanish war relief, payment for viewing was at times requested to be ‘a sturdy pair of boots’ much needed on the front lines.
This piece, more than any other, has emphasized to me the true value and influence a piece of art can have on an international scale. The response stemming from the artwork was international condemnation of the Fascists and volunteering from surrounding nations to fight in defense of the Spanish Republic. The piece is now considered to be one of the most influential and lasting anti-war artworks in history.
I had seen Guernica before this lecture and, in my view, it was classic modernist art. I have to admit a bias against it as much work I have seen in the past referred to as ‘modernist’ has underwhelmed and turned me against the style. On learning more about its context and content my views have changed somewhat. The lecture was very analytical and it made me pick up on more of what was taking place in the image. The injured horse, crying out in pain and the bereaved woman holding a dead infant and the broken statue symbolizing the crushing and oppressive power destroying utterly the town.
Although I am still not taken with modernist art and cubism in particular. I can understand the raw emotion and gravity in the image.