May 7, 2017
The bombing of Guernica, and Picasso’s response, 80 years on
Today is the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by fascist air forces from Spain, Italy, and Germany. It was a joint deal, with fascists sticking together across national lines. They bombed civilians, women, dogs, men, children, their churches and shops, their sheep and goats. Well over 1,000 people died. Many more lives and livelihoods were destroyed. Thousands of Basque children traveled to Britain as refugees.*
The aftershocks were great, not least of which was the waking of Pablo Picasso from his interior slumbers, his fetishes of bowls, breasts, and bottles. He stirred and sketched and painted, and then stirred some more, ultimately culminating in perhaps one of the 20th century’s greatest works of art, the massive oil-on-canvas mural simply known as Guernica. It was finished just in time for the World’s Fair in Paris that July, after which it toured across northern Scandinavia, the UK, and then on to the U.S., not returning to Spain until 1981, after Franco died and the fascists had packed up their political shops.
At 3.5 meters (10 feet) high, and nearly 8 meters (25 feet) in width, the work not only fills a room, it creates its own room. Rather, it creates its own world.