Analysis Of The Themes Portrayed In Picasso’s Guernica

​The oil painting titled “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso is one of his best known works which he painted in 1937. Once one examines the mural it is easy to recognize why it is regarded as a powerful anti-war statement which is further supported by analyzing the historical influences, context and themes within the modern art masterpiece.

​Pablo Picasso was originally commissioned by the Spanish government to create a mural for the Paris World Fair in 1937. However upon learning of the bombing of the city of Guernica by the Germans in support of General Franco and the Spanish nationalists, he became inspired to make the mural for the World Fair an anti-war statement. The city of Guernica was seen as a stronghold for Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, and was therefore targeted for an aerial bombardment. The city was roughly 10 kilometers from the front lines in the Spanish Civil War and a majority of the cities men were off fighting on the front lines, leaving the city full of women and children. After the initial bombardment, the second wave dropped incendiary bombs which burned the city down, and missed the only true military target within the city. As a result of the air raid, and the lack of military value the city had the world came to regard the aerial bombardment as a terror bombing of innocent civilians.

​The painting itself depicts many different images, from the bull and the horse, to the mother holding her child in her arms wailing towards the sky, dismembered bodies, the fallen man with his broken sword from which a flower grows and the bright light which shines above the chaotic scene. The multiple scenes which play out are incredibly thought provoking and give portray the chaos that civil war brings upon its people. The horse and bull both figures in Spanish culture are in the center of terror that is unfolding in the room, and atop the fallen man with his broken sword. Along with the mother holding her child in her arms and the limbs of the victims of the bombing brings to mind the suffering population of not only Guernica but of all of Spain as they are caught in the war. The broken sword, reminds me of a finally broken people who have lost the will to fight their tormentors and a sole flower grows, hinting at a peaceful end to all of this violence and terror.

​The contrast in color and the lines within the artwork are some of the themes which instantly stand out to me, with the colors simply being white, black and gray signifying the simplification of the forces battling the civil war, as either being right or wrong and he hard lines which divide up the mural. The lines although dividing the scene and separating the colors also help form other scenes perhaps to illustrate that there is more to the scene and situation in Spain than simply a black and white conflict. Then the single light bulb at the center of it all shining down on the chaos, reminiciante of the all seeing eye from the ancient Egypt stories which sees everything and is observing the terror and chaos humanity is forcing upon itself.

From reading into the history of Guernica and historical events which led to its creation, it enables one to deeply understand what are the themes which are portrayed and the strong warning against war that it shouts out to the world.

16 December 2021
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