Guernica Re-visited


  • Standing before Picasso´s Guernica today, I felt small. This was not due to the painting’s enormous size (11ft tall and 26.5 ft wide!) or the grotesque, writhing figures that dance across a stark white wall, in bold black and white brushstrokes. It was due to my recognition of the audacity behind the work, and the context in which I, and the painting literally and historically stood. I am very fortunate to be on my third visit to Madrid, so the white walls of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, are not foreign to me, but while being immersed in the study of the Spanish Civil War, and not to mention being in Madrid at the 70th anniversary of the war, this time I could not help but to see Guernica in a new light.

  • Surrounding the Guernica Galleries are other contemporary works of art pertaining to the war, including a model of the Spanish display at the World´s Fair in Paris in 1937, where Guernica was first released to the public, or rather, the world. Today, to me the painting was not only the quintessential symbol of the tragedies of war but instead a harsh, but extremely true representation of the crisis that Spain had become, and an attempt (an effective one) at sending this message to the world, that this war was not just another tragedy and it was impacting Spain in a way that would change it and shape its future as a nation. The fact that Spain had commissioned this painting while in war, and Picasso´s unheard of speed in completing the piece, and the fact that this exhibition was happening directly in the midst of the war.
  • The most resounding knowledge I gained today at the Reina Sofia, was the importance of the contextualization of a piece of art within a gallery. To the left of Guernica were Picasso´s works he created directly before creating this masterpiece, in the form of comical sketches and satirical prints and to the right were Picasso´s work he had done after completing Guernica. In the adjacent gallery was the model of the Spanish Display f the World´s fair and surrounding galleries were full of other arists´s interpretations of the war through artworks, including films and the famous photographs by Robert Capa.Today, standing in the Guernica gallery, I truly felt I was standing in a place of memory, as my entire experience and Guernica itself, were both extremely influenced and captured more meaning, due to the contextual background.

2 responses to “Guernica Re-visited”

  1. mcschrack says:

    Upon entering a room in the museum filled with people I was immediately entranced a en enormous painting that seemed to captivate everyone else’s attention as well: Picasso’s Guernica. I have never seen a more violent, emotional image on canvas. Easily one of the most important paintings to the Spanish, Guernica is Picasso’s interpretations of the bombings of Madrid in 1937.
    In a much smaller exhibit, albeit just as interesting, was a series of photos taken during the war by Robert Capa. The most fascinating was a photo of a man taken in the moment of his death: back arched, up on his toes, arms out, gun flying out of his hand, truly a photographic masterpiece.
    Both of these great works of art are still so important to Spaniards today, evident in the masses crowded around Guernica and Capa’s photos.

  2. nphoba says:

    I got the chance to speak briefly with one of the museum security guards who was working alongside Guernica. She said that many people come to see the painting, but no one seems to have very strong reactions. She says that people come, make their individual interpretations, and leave, but no one seems to express echoes of what Guernica means in the context of the war. Part of this, according to her, is that there are still the two Spains of the war with two differing ideologies. As far as she can see, those that see Guernica with the ideologies of either of these two Spains internalize their responses.