3 Cool Things (You Might Not Know) About Picasso's "Guernica"


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This week’s issue is curated by Jett, a recent Stanford graduate.

Ever feel like you can’t meet a deadline? Don’t sweat it - one of the most iconic works of art of the 20th century, Guernica, was painted in an incredible three weeks. After Nazi Condor bombers decimated the northern Spanish village of Guernica, Picasso was moved to depict the suffering of Guernica’s inhabitants. This powerful scene has left viewers both bewildered and emotional.

Newspaper1) Newsprint: Why only black and white? As in his other Cubist pictures, Picasso did this to mimic the look and feel of newsprint. Before there was Twitter, newspapers were important in disseminating information about the tragedy. The black and white also may have been a nod to photos or film, both supposedly “objective” sources of info.
Guernica Bull2) ¡Olé! Fascinated by both the beauty and tragedy of the corrida, Picasso uses the bullfight as a metaphor for aggression against the helpless. The bull, which may be interpreted as Fascism, is victorious against the weak horse, or the people. Looking at the weeping figures, these suffering characters are difficult to recognize or understand, partly because we have never seen such suffering in our own lives. Picasso deliberately constructs them from odd shapes and sharp lines to confuse and torment us, to inspire us to think more deeply about the minutiae of suffering and pain. Closer look: The aforementioned bull and a woman holding a dead child.
United Nations Security Council3) Power of art: Since its first showing in Paris, Guernica has been a masterpiece for peace. An incident arose in which the United Nations seemingly hung a sheet over a full size reproduction of Guernica when Colin Powell delivered a speech about the Iraq war in front of the iconic mural.

Guernica essentials:

  • Read: Herschel Chipp, Picasso's Guernica, 1988. Still the most thorough study in English of the mural masterpiece
  • Listen: World-renowned Art Historian TJ Clark gives the 2009 Mellon Lecture at the National Gallery about Picasso's Guernica
  • Visit: Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. Surround yourself with modern Spanish masters including Picasso, Dali and Miro


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