Comparing And Contrasting Guernica And The Third Of May

In this paper I will be comparing and contrasting aspects of the famous paintings Guernica by Pablo Picasso and The Third Of May, 1808 by Franicisco Goya. I will be discussing the aspects and parts of these paintings, and how they relate to the world. We will determine what similarities and differences they exhibit. We will also be able to find out why these paintings were painted.

The first painting I will be talking about is Guernica. Guernica was a painting done by Pablo Picasso. Pablo Picasso painted Guernica in 1937, and it’s size is almost 3 and a half by 8 meters. This painting is now hung in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, and is an oil on canvas painting. An attack on the city of Guernica was one of the reasons Pablo Picasso was influenced to paint this painting. In the painting we can see that it is a very chaotic painting and it shows the attack on Guernica. There is a woman screaming, a man’s body is split into pieces, and a horse as a terrible wound on its side. This was a Nazi attack on the town during World War II. During this time Pablo Picasso was not able to stay in Spain and had to run away because he was in danger and the Nazi’s were looking for anyone still alive. It was a very rough time for him. Guernica is an overall abstract painting. You really cannot see some of the images clearly like the dying horse, the soldier, and the bull. In fact most people usually have this painting explained to them in detail so they can understand why it was painted, what are the purposes of the certain images like the bull or soldier, and what images are there to see in this painting. I personally really like the painting of Guernica because it shows us how bad this attack was and how chaotic this battle was. This painting can also show us how afraid the people of Guernica were during this attack. There are many different ways you can look at the painting of Guernica, but the one that caught my attention was about the dying horse, bull, and the soldier with his broken sword. Bull is a symbol of Republic Spain and the dying horse can be represented as Franco’s Nationalism. The bull is not really showing any signs of domination, but it just sits there calmly, with no aggression, and to me it seems like the bull (Republic Spain) knows that they will win the war. The horse has a wound that is huge and it is slowly dying, which represents Franco’s National people slowly fading away from Spain and the sword from the soldier can be identified as a spanish soldier. In Spain they have Bullfighting as a sport. The animals and sword are all part of the fighting.

The next painting is The Third Of May, 1808 in Madrid. The Third Of May was painted in 1814. This painting was portraying when the French were trying to take over Madrid, Spain. The size of the painting is 8 feet, 9 inches by 11 feet, 4 inches, and was a medium oil on canvas. This painting was created by Francisco Goya. The reason he created this painting was to illustrate the resistance of the Spanish and how they never gave up. They would fight to save their country and family. There are many things to see in this painting. One, the French soldiers are aiming their weapons at the Spanish resistance. Another thing to see is that one man has put his hands up to surrender to the French. There is of bodies on the floor with blood near their feet, and this is representing a fresh execution. The reason that I use the word execution is because this was not a battle, it was a massacre. There are many civilians that have been killed for no primary reason other than they were not submitting to France’s rule. The last thing to notice in the painting is the people covering their faces from the soldiers because they know they are going to be killed. The Third Of May also has a very interesting history. At the time Napoleon Boneparte was trying to take over the entire world. Being that France is so close to Spain Napoleon thought it would be a good idea to trick Spain to join an alliance with the French. Little did Spain know that this was a trick and Napoleon was going to take over Spain as well as the rest of the world. After some time Napoleon’s brother was named King of Spain (which was one of his kind), and the Spanish people rejected this idea, and rebelled against the French. On the third of May many of the rebels were killed in a massacre by the French. It was a sad day for all of Spain and still is to this day. This painting is now widely known and is admired by all different types of people. A country that was rebelling against what would’ve been a global superpower is very remarkable and honorable. This War between France and Spain was very dramatic because so many people lost their lives.

Guernica and The Third of May have a lot of things in common. These two paintings both depict massacres that happened towards Spain. In Guernica, on 1937, the German Nazi’s bombed Guernica. This was one of the first aerial raids on defenseless civilians and was a very tragic day for people around Spain. Like Guernica, Madrid, Spain was also attacked. In 1808, on the 3rd of May, the French gathered up all the rebel soldiers and rebel civilians. Both of these attacks were attacks on innocent people. There was no reason to kill civilians in these battles, but the reason they did is so they could get more people to see their power and submit to their rule. The French slaughtered all of them for not submitting to the rule of France. Both these paintings show images of chaos and tragedy. In Guernica we can clearly see some women in distress about the bombing and they are running for their lives. There is also a fire in the painting to represent the destruction of homes in the town. In The Third Of May we see a pile of bodies lying on the floor and a bunch of blood coming from the feet of the bodies. There are also people cowering in fear as they know they will be shot very soon for rebelling against the rule of France. These paintings have a dark color to them. The reason for putting these paintings in such a dark color instead of lighter colors like blue and green is to represent this was a great tragedy. If these paintings had lighter color there would be a lesser sense of dramatic tragedy. When you put a painting in black and white it can represent one of two things. It can represent that it was very dramatic or it was just a really, really old painting. Another thing that comes to mind when analyzing these paintings is to compare their foreground, middle ground, and background. In the foreground of Guernica you see the horse and the two women coming forward. In The Third Of May you can see the pile of bodies which is similar to the dying horse and soldiers are sort of similar to the women in Guernica because they are both going right to left. You can see them straight in the foreground. In the middle ground of Guernica the women are on fire and they are mourning. In The Third Of May we also see victims. These are both victims in the different paintings and that is why the middle ground is so similar. Last but not least is the background. In the background of Guernica there is the bull and source of light. In The Third Of May we see the hills and the castle. These are both representations of Spain and how they may have contributed to Spain at a certain point of time.

While Guernica and The Third Of May have many things in common, they also have some things that are totally different. One thing that you may notice between the two paintings is that the painting of Guernica is very abstract in the way some images are places and how it looks very disastrous, like the bombing of Guernica. The Third Of May is more naturalistic. In Guernica the humans, animals, or even buildings are not clear, but in The Third Of May the hills, castle, and people are very clear. Another when analyzing at these two paintings is Guernica has people scattered all over the painting, while The Third Of May has little groups of people in different areas of the painting, like the soldiers and the victims. The painting of Guernica has different pictures within the painting to make up bigger images, like the horse or the bull. In The Third Of May you clearly see the humans and the castle while you cannot clearly see the images in Guernica. At first you seeing little pieces of the painting and then when someone points it out or it is explained to you, you start to see and understand the painting much better. A lot of abstract paintings are that way and they are very hard to figure out, but when you have abstract art relating to a historical event, many different interpretations can be taken. As for The Third Of May, since it is a clear painting we can clearly understand what is happening in the painting.

There are more similarities that are easier to find rather than differences. To find the different aspects of the painting you got to learn the history, why it was painted, and to study it. I found out many things that I did not know about Guernica and The Third Of May. When I first looked at Guernica I had no idea what I was looking at. It looked like a bunch of nothing, but when my art teacher started explaining it and I started researching it, I started to realize more about it and could see the images in the painting. I had no idea there would be so much in common with these paintings, for example they were both disastrous for Spanish people to experience. They were both attacks on Spain, and I didn’t know until now that they were both related to Spain. I really think that this research project brought my understanding of these paintings much further, and now if anyone were to ask me what these paintings were about I could tell them right away.


  • Art History Online, “Pablo Picasso - Guernica (1937)”, YouTube, 24 Feb. 2017,
  • Kiprop, Joseph. 'Famous Artwork: The Third of May 1808.' WorldAtlas, Aug. 24, 2017,
16 December 2021
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