The Connection Between Guernica And The Concept Of Utopia And Dystopia


Guernica was created on 1937 as a symbol of destruction and also as a human consciousness of the catastrophe. On the contrary, a Utopia is an imagined community or society that processes highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. A dystopia is a community or a society that is undesirable or frightening; so the opposite of Dystopia. Now, the work will consist in connect the concept of Utopia and Dystopia with the symbology of the Guernica paint. To do that I will search different meanings of the two concepts in books of important figures in the history; and after with the symbology and what the author tries to say with the paint and the characters of it, I will connect the three mental concepts.    

Theoretical basics 

This section will consist in the theoretical information and bases that this work needs to after compare and relation the two main concepts of the essay.    

Pablo Picasso 

Outstanding figure as an artist and as a man, Picasso was the protagonist and inimitable creator of the diverse currents that revolutionized 20th century plastic arts, from cubism to neonfigurative sculpture, from engraving or etching to handcrafted ceramics or ballet scenography. His immense work in number, variety and talent extends over more than seventy-five years of creative activity, which the painter combined wisely with love, politics, friendship and an exultant and contagious enjoyment of life. Famous since youth, admired and sought after by the famous and powerful, he was essentially a simple, healthy and generous Spaniard, endowed with a formidable capacity for work, in love with the bohemian neighborhoods of Paris, the Mediterranean sun, the bulls, simple people and beautiful women, a hobby that he cultivated without fainting.    

His most prominent paintings are: Guernica (1937), Las señoritas de Avignon (1907), Los tres músicos (1921), Retrato de Dora Maar (1937), Mujer ante el espejo (1932), Autorretrato (1896), Las Meninas por Pablo Picasso (1957), Le pigeon aux petits pois (1911), among others.    


Iconographic analysis 

The theme that this work represents revolves around the horrors of war. Its title refers to the bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. Despite its title and the circumstances in which it was made, there is no concrete reference to the bombing. It is not, therefore, a narrative, but symbolic. The work is a cry against war from the point of view of the victims, a reflection on destruction and pain. Picasso made this work for the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the Universal Exposition in Paris. After many years in deposit in the United States, he arrived in Spain, definitively settling in the Reina Sofía Museum.    

Formal Analysis 

The Guernica is a work of large dimensions, 3.50 m. high by 7.80 m. long In the painting nine symbols are represented: six human beings and three animals.    

From left to right, the characters are the following: 

  • Bull: Picasso indicated that it symbolizes brutality and darkness. 
  • Mother with dead son: This mother and her son symbolize the city of Madrid. 
  • Bird: It has a fallen wing so it is considered to be the symbol of broken peace. 
  • Dead warrior: it has been interpreted as a ray of hope within this discouraging panorama.
  • Light bulb: It has been thought that it symbolizes scientific progress that becomes a form of social advance but at the same time a form of mass destruction in modern wars. 
  • Horse: It symbolizes the innocent victims of war. 
  • Kneeling woman: Another version is that the woman is wounded and approaches the mare to rest from her injuries.
  • Woman of the oil lamp: It is interpreted as a phantasmagorical allegory of the Republic.
  • Man imploring: Man looking at the sky as if begging the planes to stop bombing.    

Utopia & Dystopia 

The word utopia comes from the Medieval Greek corrupt. U (u) means 'anywhere' and 'place topos'. Utopia is therefore the 'place from nowhere', 'the place that does not exist'. A utopia is a sociomoral analysis, that is, we are described as a fictional physical space (often a secluded island) in which it is a highly moral society, governed by altruistic feelings. Every utopia starts with a contrast between what really happens and what we deserve to happen. Utopias are also pedagogy: it is about educating humans for the transformation of reality through association and work. Utopians believe that there is no possible social change at an individual level, and they try to educate society as a whole, so that a fair order is made in the concrete. A dystopia is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as 'not-good place' and is an antonym of utopia.    

Utopia in The Republic of Platon 

With Plato (The Republic), in particular, in book V, we want to make a utopia that is clearly political, based on the knowledge of the human soul and the rational prediction of everything that can happen to man. When the knowledge of classicism is revealed through the printing press, there is an attempt to build the ideal Republic of our time, which are the Utopias. So all the combinations of human soul and rational predictions of everything that can happen to a human in conclusion, is the utopia that we found in Platon’s book.    

Utopia in Utopia of Tomas Moro 

When we talk about Utopia in Utopia of Tomas Moro we have to classify the concept in a type of Utopia. We are talking about of Utopia of the clam happiness, which begins with the book of Moro, the main source of good life lies in the wise order. It seeks a social order that minimizes the possibilities of physical aggression, diminishing to the maximum the competitiveness. They are pure intellectual speculations that are not intended to be put into practice.    

There is a patriarchal and traditionalist vision of power (always in the hands of the elders, always in the hands of wise people: never in the hands of young people or the people) The only inequality is the one that comes from wisdom. For these utopias, the origin of evil is the bad property acquired: traditionalist communications are defended, in which tranquillity is the supreme value and moderation is the way of achieving it, in a calm stoic.    

Utopia in 1984 of George Orwell 

We talk about Utopia in an abstract point of view of the book. To try to see it, we have to change the Dystopia that is showing us Orwell. So 1984 presents an authoritarian society where there are people that are under other people and others that have more power than the other ones. The citizens are controlled with a kind of cameras, they have one in each residence, and they have strict norms that if they don’t follow they will be punished with tortures. So in this point of view we connect immediately with the concept of Dystopia, but if we turn the face of the coin, and we see the contrary of this point of view. I mean that of course Orwell is explaining with the story of the main character the term of Dystopia but in the other hand he is trying to reveal that this is a society that anyone wants, and he is giving us the opportunity to delete those characteristics that he describe of the character society to after create a desire city, designed Utopia.  

Connection between Guernica and Utopia & Dystopia    

Connection between Utopia and Dystopia 

The connection between Utopia and Dystopia is that they are talking about the same main concept, a society. Of course are contrary concepts, one is the “good image” of a society and the other is the “bad image”, but both are talking about the same, the construction or deconstruction of a society. The concept that we need to this project is the Utopia, but the relation between the two concepts helps to clarify the concept of society and it extremes. Another characteristic that comes to the mind when we are talking about utopia and dystopia is the fact that the both comes of the thought of a human, that person that lives in a society or in another, but her/his thinking produce the both concepts, and everybody have different perspectives of that thinking.    

Connection between Dystopia and Guernica 

Try to connect this two concepts is simple, you just have to look at the iconographic analysis and you see that the painting was created in 1937, at the Civil Spanish War, when were a lot of deaths and injured. So the painting was and is a report of the war and the suffering of the citizens that were living there. In the painting we see different characters that all complete the concepts of dystopia. For example the bird and the house represent, in one hand the broken peace and in the other hand the representation of the injures of the war, all these pieces create the big puzzle that is the dystopia. To see clearly the connection between the two concepts, we will remember the definition of dystopia: a dystopia is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as 'not-good place' and is an antonym of utopia. So connecting this with Guernica, Picasso is definitely showing us a community that is undesirable, such undesirable as a war and the people that is living that war. In conclusion, the connection between these two concepts is so obvious and this relation will help to create the last relation, utopia and Guernica.    

 Connection between Utopia and Guernica 

Finally, to try to relation this two terms we have to go farther that the thinking of the artist and also of the term of Dystopia. Of course the author of the painting is trying to show to the spectator that the society or community that is represented in the painting is undesirable and anyone wants to live that conditions or historical moments. So the simple thing that we are thinking that we don’t want to live in that time, and we want to live in a better way, in that point, we are creating, growing a beginning of a utopia. We are thinking that these characteristics that we don’t like of the painting or simply the historical fact that we don’t want to life, spontaneously we are thinking that we want to lie in a society or in a community with the characteristics that every human want to be more comfortable and happier. So relation with Tomas Moro and his utopia of the calm happier, is the same concept, the main source of the good life of a human, with characteristics that when you look at a painting that show the community that you don’t want to live, after cause you the desire of thinking in a better place to live in peace and with all the imagine characteristics that this activity produce, and of course create a personal utopia. According to The Republic of Platon, also there are politic concepts that involve this utopia exhibit in the painting of Picasso; when you think about a society or community where there are political characteristics (democracy or something that you create with the imagination) you’re constructing in pieces a utopia.    

So the main connection, the most important concept of the both concepts is that you, as a human with experience in the society and the history, you create with the imagination your utopia.    


To conclude, we have to keep in mind that in a thinking of dystopia the human create a utopia to try to not live in one. So the important thing of this essay is the human knowledge and thinking that create and produce this stereotypical societies and communities that contrast with that one’s that the history have shown us over the years, like Guernica. 

16 December 2021
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