Guernica

Next to the Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso's most important work historically is Guernica (now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York), named after the Basque town destroyed by an air raid on April 26, 1937. The very title of this canvas, chosen by the painter himself, as well as its large size (11 feet 6 inches by 25 feet 8 inches) and the circumstances of its first public showing (about which more later) emphasize its special character. Juan Larrea, who devoted an extensive monograph to it, justly praises it as "the most famous painting of our time. No other picture portrays and defines our age so completely." We shall make no attempt here to substantiate this judgment which, considering our closeness to the work, cannot pretend to be more than an anticipation or intuition. We shall confine ourselves to defining the place Guernica occupies in Picasso's development; in doing so we shall also gain some insight into its exceptional artistic importance. We begin with a brief description of the painting, which will serve as the basis for a discussion of its genesis and an interpretation of its contents.

Guernica pages 233/34

The canvas shows a shallow space like that of a stage. Its left half, illumined by a large lamp, suggests an interior; the burning house with several openings in the right half produces the illusion of an outdoor scene. The central figure, which belongs to both halves of the picture, represents a horse, pierced by a spear, collapsing on its knees. In front of the horse we see a dead warrior, clutching the hilt of a broken sword in his right hand, near which a small shoot rises from the dark ground; his head and left arm occupy the extreme lower left of the canvas. A half-clothed female figure, gazing upward, seems to crawl from the right toward the horse. Above her a screaming woman leans from the window. Her enormous profile is turned toward the center; the outstretched arm with the lamp, and the hand and the breasts in the window are hers. At the extreme right, in front of the crumbling wall of the burning house, and partly covered by wreckage, there is a

-225-

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Picasso
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 2
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • Thoughts About Picasso 9
  • Introduction I: Nature and Abstraction 71
  • Introduction Ii: Range of Styles 95
  • Early Years in Barcelona and Paris 109
  • The Blue Period 120
  • The Rose Period 131
  • Origins of Cubism 141
  • Evolution of Cubism 165
  • Classical Interlude 175
  • Picasso and Surrealism 193
  • Symbolic Themes 206
  • Guernica 225
  • Portraits and Landscapes 240
  • Antibes 262
  • Vallauris: Ceramics 278
  • Sculpture 285
  • Ornament and Image. War and Peace 295
  • Notes and References 350
  • Classified Catalogue 453
  • Bibliograpby 516
  • Index of Names 523
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