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GUERNICA: A disaster becomes the reason for the creation of a work of art

GUERNICA: A disaster becomes the reason for the creation of a work of art

Dimitra Papanastasopoulou
13 May, 2024


The calendar showed April 26, 1937, when the small Basque town of Guernica received a barrage of air raids from German and Italian planes.

The Spanish Nationalists believed that if they occupied Bilbao - it is a few kilometers from Guernica - the civil war would end, so the small and insignificant Guernica became of strategic importance.

Of course, Nazi Germany was - theoretically - neutral in the Spanish Civil War, but there was a group of volunteers, the "Condor Legion", manned by experienced Lutfave pilots. She undertook the task of bombing.

In a square in Guernica, since 1858, there has been the sacred oak tree that symbolizes the traditional freedoms of the province of Vithcaya and the unity of the Basque people. The president of the Basque parliament, as well as the Spanish kings, swear on this tree, pledging to respect the liberties and rights of the Basques. A few days earlier - on April 10 - the new Basque government, headed by Jose Antonio Aguirre, was sworn in under its shadow. That is, for the Basques it was a sacred place, therefore unfortified.

The bombardment began at 16:30 and ended at 19:00. Thirty-two tons of explosives, along with incendiary bombs were dropped on her land, on her civilian population. After those two and a half hours most of the city was gone, the death toll varying by source, adding to the shame. For five days the place burned, charring buildings, people, animals and plants. Only the stubborn oak survived and remains standing in defiance of that murderous storm - Operation 'Rebuke'.

Guernica is a small Basque town, very close to Bilbao, which had 7 thousand inhabitants before the Spanish Civil War broke out. The city was home to the sacred oak tree that symbolized the traditional liberties of the province of Vithcaya and the unity of the Basques who saw Guernica as their spiritual center. The president of the Basic Parliament and the Spanish kings he bound swore to this tree

OO Picasso learned what happened by reading the French newspaper Le Soir and started painting on May Day. The huge project (3.54 X 7.82 m.) was finished on the 3η June 1937.

Looking at the painting we see neither planes nor ruins, but a bull (the soul of Spain), a wounded horse, dismembered bodies and four screaming women holding their dead babies, all in cubist form. The black of doom dominates, with white and gray accentuating it even more.

"The removal of color and relief is an interruption of man's relationship with the world: when it is interrupted, there is no longer nature or life" writes Giulio Carlo Argan in his work "Modern Art" (University Publications of Crete, 1998) .

This loss was captured by Picasso, in a brutal and gruesome way.

First impressions of the work were anything but enthusiastic - it was even described as pornography by a Basque muralist. However, the Democratic Spaniards continued to display him at every opportunity, strengthening their struggle.

When General Franco took power, his report stopped and with the outbreak of World War II. the project fled to the US. to be saved. It stayed there, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, until 1981.

When it returned to Spain, it was exhibited first in the Cason del Buen Retiro and then in the Museo del Prado, protected by bulletproof glass and armed guards. Finally, in 1992 it was transferred to the Queen Sofia National Museum of Art (thankfully without armed guards), becoming its most famous and most important exhibit.



 photo  https://en.wikipedia.org/ 

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