PABLO PICASSO HAD been searching for three months for something to paint in April 1937. Living in Paris, the Spanish artist had been given a commission to produce a mural for the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. Turmoil had disrupted his process, both in his private life and in the civil war raging in Spain. The horror of this war would give Picasso his inspiration to paint a bold, unflinching vision of the devastation and savagery of modern warfare on everyday people. Picasso’s work, “Guernica,” is one of the 20th century’s greatest works of art and a strong statement against war.
Guernica : painting of Picasso
April 26, 1937, was a Monday, a market day in Guernica. That afternoon, German and Italian bombers dropped 550-pound explosives to crush buildings so that fire would spread more quickly. They were followed by waves of planes dropping incendiaries that burned at 2500°C. By the evening most buildings in Guernica were uninhabitable. Although the death toll, at first thought to be thousands, was later revised down to between 200 and 300, it sent a terrifying message to the world: The fascist powers were prepared to unleash the new weapon from the sky on civilians, the prelude to the devastating carpet-bombing of European cities during the Second World War.
The day after the attack, Pablo Picasso was sitting in the Café de Flore, Paris, and read of the atrocity in the newspaper. With the appalling news from Guernica, Picasso knew he had his theme at last.
On May 1, 1937, Picasso made his first sketches. The bull and the horse were present in early drafts, along with the fallen soldier and the woman with a lamp. Picasso had, in fact, used several of these elements in a previous work, a 1935 engraving of a minotaur.
Picasso had always said that he would not allow the picture to travel to his homeland until Spain was a republic. General Franco died in 1975—two years after Picasso—and Spain made the transition to democracy as a constitutional monarchy. Even though this meant that Spain was not the republic that Picasso had dreamed of, “Guernica” was allowed to return in 1981 and was shown at the Prado Museum in Madrid. The painting’s power to provoke had not diminished over the years. Because the passions of the Spanish Civil War had not faded, “Guernica” was displayed behind bomb- and bulletproof glass. In 1992 “Guernica” made its last journey, to the nearby Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, where it is now visited by an average of 11,000 people every day.
According to www.nationalgeographic.com