Different Influences Of Picasso’s Guernica On Society

This essay will argue that Guernica had a strong cultural, social/political and artistic impact on the society and it continues to retain its complex universality on people. It will attempt to demonstrate that through arguing the inspiration that it has on the later generation of artists, Guernica as a political artwork has a crucial political and cultural impact on the society. Guernica, Through this powerful political artistic representation this painting demonstrates the chaos, tragedy of war and exposes the suffering it has upon innocent civilians. It has become an anti-war symbol and the way to draw everyone’s attention to the Spanish Civil War.

Guernica can serve as a major source of inspiration for the generations of artists of this and following eras, but importantly, Guernica was also inspired by several other artists. Picasso shows his political statement against fascism, armed conflict and totalitarianism by showing a graphic reflection of the horror and cruelty of the war. Guernica has considered a treasure in art history because it seems to create a clear bridge between two opposite poles and concerns, providing an effective political point of view as well as an effective artistic statement in the same body of work. Guernica depicts the terror of the war and these unaware and innocent villages by using different figures to symbolise the meaning. Reinforcing the idea of Picasso as the model of Modernist in painting, Leighten (2014) asserts that Guernica is the work that perfectly combined two concerns into work but still can “make a very heartfelt political statement”. Interestingly, Picasso’s Guernica also influenced by other artists such as Cervantes’ play, El Cerco de Numancia. For instance: Picasso underlines the mother-child relationship is similar to Cervantes (Brunner, 2001). The women in both performance and artwork present the women as feeling hopeless and anguish. Picasso’s composition and character sketch for Guernica possibly influenced by the theatrical conception of Numancia. Hence, Guernica was also influenced by other artists but at the same time, Guernica is served as an exemplar of Modernist practice which impacts on the following generation of artists.

Picasso’s Guernica painting acts as a public weapon to influences the political nature through the use of combination and symbolisms of the figure, which further impacted on the society. Guernica did not show any aeroplanes, explosion town and reference to the time of the day but rather presented the protest in a composition of different imaginative figures. Picasso employed symbolism and composition to present the tragedy of war and suffering it causes on innocent civilians while utilizing a palette of black, white and grey added to a sense of terror and panic. Symbolism such as horse which indirectly demonstrates a noble and strong animal, probably symbolising the Spanish civilians and republicans (the victims of the war). The spear protrudes from the horse’s mouth combined with its horrified expression indicates the pain and agony of war, criticising death cannot prevent the pain and suffering of war (Van Hensbergen, 2004). The bull on the left without sentimental expression is a symbol of racist brutality, criticising the enemy for treating war without emotion; The mother and child represent the witness to the tragedy of the Republic bombing at Guernica and the indication of tragedy. Lesser (2011) further adds that this mother can be indicated as the Spanish mothers’ mourning over the loss of their children in terms of the Republican. The chaotic and confusing is further expressed from the composition and all these individual images. These powerful compositions full of symbolism serve as a strong political condemnation of Fascism and denounce the Nationalists and Franco. Importantly, this strong political art influence and encourage society against fascism to protest themselves. Interestingly, Guernica is a political vehicle that primarily serves as an anti-war icon to represent and criticise the Spanish Civil War but the painting soon went beyond the mere protest of events to become a cultural demonstration in political struggle. After Guernica became well-known, the work exhibited in many different countries. For instances: 1940 was exhibited in Chicago; 1941 and 1942 were shown in the Fogg Art Museum and many other American museums. This movement indicates that Guernica is now an indictment of the continued racist aggression against the other European countries. This artistic political influence does not come from isolated works of art, but the correct and clear political message that conveys. Hence, Guernica has had a crucial impact on society and act as a means of uniting people against fascism.

To sum up, Guernica has inspired later generations of artists. Besides, this work is not only a political statement painted for the Republican Pavillon, it is a symbolic revelation through the incredible painting technique, creating a important opportunity for people (Spanish and republicans) to protest against other European countries.


  • John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965), 169.
  • Van Hensbergen, Gijs. Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004. Print.
  • Lesser, Casey, 'The Guernica Effect: The Power and Legacy of Picasso's Guernica' (2011). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 376.
  • https://legomenon.com/guernica-meaning-analysis-of-painting-by-pablo-picasso.html
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/cubism-early-abstraction/cubism/a/picasso-guernica
  • https://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp
  • https://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/guernica/glevel_1/3a_tension.html
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/cubism-early-abstraction/cubism/a/picasso-guernica
  • https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-guernica-picassos-influential-painting
  • https://legomenon.com/guernica-meaning-analysis-of-painting-by-pablo-picasso.html
  • http://www.scholars-on-bilbao.info/fichas/2013_IJAM_Picassos_GUERNICA.pdf
  • http://www.sohu.com/a/281200598_216798
  • https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-guernica-picassos-influential-painting
16 December 2021
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