Guernica : Picasso’s Most Influential Painting

Guernica is a one of epic artwork from Picasso, Guernica is a town in the province of Biscay in Basque Country. During the Spanish Civil War, it was regarded as the northern bastion of the Republican resistance movement and the center of Basque culture, adding to its significance as a target



Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas completed in June 1937.  The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. Standing at 3.49 metres (11 ft 5 in) tall and 7.76 metres (25 ft 6 in) wide, the large mural shows the suffering of people wrenched by violence and chaos. Prominent in the composition are a gored horse, a bull, and flames. (wikipedia)

The photographer Dora Maar—who had worked with Picasso since mid-1936, photographing his studio and teaching him the technique of cameraless photography—documented the stages Guernica went through on its way to completion. Apart from their documentary and publicity value, Maar’s photographs “helped Picasso to eschew color and give the work the black-and-white immediacy of a photograph”, according to John Richardson. The work was painted using a matte house paint specially formulated at Picasso’s request to have the least possible gloss. Previously, Picasso had rarely allowed strangers into his studio to watch him work, but he admitted influential visitors to his studio to observe the progress of the painting, believing that the publicity to be gained would help the antifascist cause.


Guernica Process from Sketchs Study to Painting Art Work



As he worked on the mural, Picasso said: “The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.”

After 35 days of work, he finished the painting on 4 June 1937.


A tapestry copy of Picasso’s Guernica was displayed on the wall of the United Nations Building in New York City at the entrance to the Security Council room from 1985 to 2009. It was commissioned in 1955 by Nelson Rockefeller, since Picasso refused to sell him the original. The tapestry was placed on loan to the United Nations by the Rockefeller estate in 1985. The tapestry is less monochromatic than the original and uses several shades of brown.

Prince William speaks in front of a tapestry of the piece, which hung at Whitechapel Gallery in London during renovations at the UN.

On 5 February 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work at the UN, so that it would not be visible in the background when Colin Powell and John Negroponte gave press conferences at the United Nations. On the following day, it was claimed that the curtain was placed there at the request of television news crews, who had complained that the wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that a horse’s hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers. Some diplomats, however, in talks with journalists claimed that the Bush Administration pressured UN officials to cover the tapestry, rather than have it in the background while Powell or other US diplomats argued for war on Iraq. In a critique of the covering, columnist Alejandro Escalona hypothesized that Guernicas “unappealing ménage of mutilated bodies and distorted faces proved to be too strong for articulating to the world why the US was going to war in Iraq”, while referring to the work as “an inconvenient masterpiece.”Artist Recreates Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ In Reaction To The Syrian War

For cartoonist Vasco Gargalo, art is “the most direct way to get a message across”. With this in mind, he took the powerful symbols seen in the original painting and mixed them with the main figures of the Syrian Civil War, which has been tearing the country apart for over five years.

For his piece, entitled Alepponica, Gargalo has used an almost identical composition, recreating the image to represent the city of Aleppo. Currently split between the government-held west and the rebel-held east, the town of over two million inhabitants has been one of the worst-hit areas since the uprising of 2011.

Different war, same suffering

Vasco Gargalo grew up with a print of Guernica hanging on his wall. For years, he was able to observe the painting and reflect upon the horror of its subject.

In 2010, the artist finally saw the Picasso canvas in real life: “At that instant, I felt so many emotions: outrage at the bombing of this little Spanish town [represented by] modern, cubist silhouettes, animals in distress…”

After seeing history tragically repeat itself, he decided to create his own response. He concludes: “The Syrian people’s suffering is in no way different.”

You can check out a few annotated close-ups of the painting just below.(