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10 Amazing Facts about GUERNICA BY Pablo Picasso

Updated: Feb 17, 2022


Probably Picasso’s most famous work, Guernica is the most powerful political statement made as a reaction to the Nazi bombings on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This painting showcasing the tragedies and sufferings of innocent civilians. It gained monumental status as a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol as well as a symbol of peace. When this painting was completed and displayed, it brought attention to the Spanish Civil War.



An amalgamation of pastoral and epic style, the use of color on this painting intensifies the drama. Painted mainly in black, blue, and white, this painting can now be seen in Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid. The various animals depicted in the painting all symbolize something significant; the bull and the horse are very important characters in the Spanish culture and since Picasso, himself used these characters to play many roles, it comes to interpret what their actual interpretation is. The bull depicts fascism and according to Picasso, it meant brutality and darkness. He also stated that the people of Guernica were represented by the horse, which represented pain and death.


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Below are 10 lesser-known facts about this powerful reaction to the Nazi bombings on Guernica:


1. Chronicles of Guernica:


While he was painting it, Picasso allowed a photographer to chronicle its progress. It is believed that Picasso read about the bombings while he was in France in newspapers and painted from them, hence his painting is black and white. This lack of color expressed the starkness of the aftermath of the bombings.



2. Signature Figures:


Two of Picasso’s signature figures; the Minotaur and the Harlequin are there in Guernica. The Minotaur symbolizes irrational power and dominates the left side of the painting, the Harlequin, which is a little off-centre to the left is partially hidden cries of a diamond-shaped tear. This symbolizes duality. It is a mystical symbol representing power over life and death. It is said that Picasso added the Harlequin to counterbalance the deaths depicted in this mural.



3. What is depicted?


This painting is not very easy to decipher, there is death depicted everywhere. Figures start to emerge as the viewers’ eyes adjust to the frantic action. There is a woman in the far left, who is screaming in pain with her head back while holding a lifeless baby in her hands making it one of the most unforgettable images in the painting. There is the head and partial body of a bull, right next to the woman, which is the only unharmed figure in the whole mural. There is also a horse in the left-centre, which is screaming in pain because it has been pierced by a spear. There are many more figures, all of which are depicting death and agony. The faces of all the characters are distorted in agony and their eyes dislocated with open mouths and tongues shaped like daggers.



4. Symbolism:


There has been and still is an endless debate going on about what the painting actually depicts. Picasso said that it was about people being massacred but since it has so may character, it has been hard to interpret. Picasso said “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise, it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words. The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them”. Picasso didn’t approve of the painting has one single meaning. It could be the lack of historical specificity or the fact that brutal wars kept on happening that Guernica

remains timeless and as universally relatable as it today as it was in 1937.


5. Women are the main characters in Guernica:


If one looks closely