The Meanings Behind the Images

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In May of 1937, while working on Guernica, Picasso was horrified by rumors that he was in favor of Franco. He made a public statement affirming the falsity of these rumors, pointing out his acceptance of the post of Director of the Prado museum which he had been offered from the Republican Government and also referencing Guernica, announcing,

“In the panel on which I am working…I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in ocean of pain and death” (Glendinning 41). While Guernica is the product of many sketches and preliminary works and its interpretation can be analyzed endlessly, through the identification of certain figures and symbols a basic analysis has emerged as a mirror of “the destructive nature of Franco’s Nationalists”(43).

This basic analysis says the mother and child on the right is a symbol of civilian destruction, the destruction of nature and beauty is present through the horse (center) and the flower (bottom center) and the crushed bird (in the background, towards the right) is a representation of the crushed Spanish spirit. In a preliminary draft of the piece, Picasso included the classic Republican symbol of the clenched fist, however he chose to eliminate it, perhaps due to its overt significance(43).

Endless interpretations surround the countless images including the lamp, the overhead light, the bull and the horse, and the knife and the flower. Through all of these images and unique juxtapositions and a composition of disorder and contorted figures, Picasso presents an overall image of crisis and struggle, with an underlying sadness and pain throughout.

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