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General Franco ordered the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica on 26 April 1937.

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Introduction

General Franco ordered the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica on 26 April 1937. The German Lufwaffe, under his command, virtually destroyed the town. For the Spanish, Guernica symbolized liberty and a sense of pride. The bombing had significance with respect to history and to a greater extent, human meaning. It would change for ever the rules of war. The bombing provided the motivation for Picasso to paint a commission, from the Republican government, just prior to the bombing. The Spanish pavilion was home to the mural during the International Exhibition in Paris. The bombing had an immediate effect on intellectuals throughout Europe. Subsequent to the Spanish Civil War most of Europe and England considered communism a Russian issue, while fascism was a problem for Central Europe. Picasso had remained, throughout his early years, apolitical; leaning toward anarchism and, while in Paris, nihilism. For most of Europe, including the intellectuals, the events in Spain meant they could no longer be above the conflict. The issue of fascism against democracy became of primary concern. For Picasso, interest in politics concerned only the intellectual. During the inventive period of cubism and the years of QWorld War I his interests were purely artistic. ...read more.

Middle

Picasso, like Chagall, was reticent about the meaning of his work. The symbolism found in the imagery of Guernica is not singular to Picasso. They have a long and complicated history in European art. According to the artist the horse represents the opele while the bull represents brutality and darkness. He refused to identify the bull with fascims; which shows the fluidity of Picasso's symbols. The dominate motif of the painting, despite the action being carried out by the women, is the struggle between the horse and the bull. From his childhood, bullfights captivated Picasso. His earliest drawing, at age ten, was of a bullfight. Additionally, a number of oils executed subsequent to 1900 were also of bullfights; however, the symbolism of Picasso's work of the twenties and thirties was not present in these early representations. A difference in the bullfighting paintings of the artist's early career and his later work, beginning about 1917, concerns the style of the horse and bull. The fugures of the ezarly paintings were docile and painted in a contradictory scene of calmness in the midst of the arena. A scene of horror became commplace in Picasso's bullfight paintings and drawings at the beginning of the thirties. ...read more.

Conclusion

To the right is a burning building with a woman falling out of the window, with outstretched arms. To the left and underneath the head of the bull is a mother with a dead child. On the right a woman thrust her head forward in terror. In the foreground is a woman lying next to a dead bird, next to her arm, and a plant growing near her head. To her left is a dead soldier. The focus of the foreground is the soldier whose left hand is gripping a sword. He raises his right arm with a clenched fist. The raised fist takes on a greater significance in the final composition than it did in preliminary studies. It becomes a strong perpendicular element in the composition that is stronger with the parallel axis of the lamp. Guernica does follow a tradition geometric scheme. There are several triangular patterns formed early in the execution of the compostion and maintained throughout its completion. After the exposition Guernica exhibited in Scandinavia, England, and the United States, with hope that it would awaken the world to the dangers of Franco in Spain. For the artist, Guernica was "an offensive and a defensive weapon in the fight against the enemy." The painting, however, was too late to affect the outcome of the Civil War in Spain; but remains a symbol of suffering and hope in the world. ...read more.

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