-Pablo Picasso's Guernica
Guernica (1937), one of the most universally acclaimed paintings of the 20th century, symbolizes the inhumanity and brutality of war. With the painting’s name, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) expressed his reaction to learning about the German bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). He was not aware of the details of the destruction, but when asked about his intent, Picasso said that “it isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. A painting is not made for decoration. It is a weapon of offensive and defensive war against the enemy.” Clearly, Picasso’s intent was to express his own anguish and provoke a reaction in the public psyche.
As an artist, Picasso exercised superb control of line defined shapes, which differs from shaped defined by shading as seen in Chinese art. The prevalent figures in the painting are redefined motifs from his overall body of art. In Guernica, the horse and the Minotaur are the central figures and are repeatedly used as symbols in Picasso’s oeuvre to express other motifs. In this painting the Minotaur can symbolize the beastly and yet human potentials that exist in life; the horse can represent the defiance of a noble beast rather than a cowardly resignation to the brutality of war; the lamp serves as a visual aid, enlightenment or mental awareness. The meaning of Picasso’s art is not always black and white, but left to the viewer to interpret and draw meaning. The fame of Guernica and its symbols has had a lasting influence on the iconography of violence in art.
Lehigh University Catalog Record: https://asa.lib.lehigh.edu/Record/110475
Juan Larrea and Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Guernica: Pablo Picasso.
New York: Curt Valentin Publisher, 1947.