Guernica, the painting by Pablo Picasso, has become a legend for the theme it represents and the political artistic fight it symbolizes. An exhibition at Musée Picasso establishes the origins of the painting, the artist’s political activism in the 1930’s and through the war, and the after life of the masterpiece when it travelled around the world and was sent to Madrid after Franco’s death. The exhibition is not too large and very well detailed. Do not miss it.
Conceived in five weeks eighty years ago, the painting of Guernica has come to symbolize the importance of the master in 20 th century history. A few days after the little Basque town Guernika was bombarded by the Germans on 26 April 1937, Picasso decided to paint a large fresco condemning Franco’s fascist ambitions. He was partly inspired by Goya’s “Disasters of the war 1810-1815” and different “Massacres of the Innocent‘ by Poussin and Rubens.
In 1936 he had met Henriette Theodora Markovitch alias Dora Maar, a Croatian photographer, who was introduced to him by Paul Eluard. This is when he toured an exhibition of his works all around Spain from January to April 1936, in support of the Republican government. Siding with the Republicans against Franco’s military government, he was made a director of the Prado museum but never went to Madrid at the time. He was kept informed by his mother and friends who sent him articles on the political situation in Spain.
Dora Maar encouraged him to express his political opinions and methodically recorded with photographies, the painting of Guernica during its short five week process. Some of her pictures are shown here. They document the changes and evolution of the work.
There is a wall covered in political posters from the time and a room devoted to Guernica’s posterity. From 17 July 1936, Franco led the civil war which resulted into many Spaniards fleeing to France.
After being exhibited in New York for many years, the work of Guernica was finally hung in Madrid in 1975 after Franco died, and moved to the Reina Sofia in 1994. This exhibition gives it all its significance and its powerful image. Until July 19, Musée Picasso.
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