Picasso: War and Peace

Pablo Picasso was one of the most innovative and original artists of the 20th century, perhaps of any century. He was a master of a range of forms: painting, etching, sketches, sculpture, and mural. Picasso’s work can be viewed as a series of cycles of breaking convention, mastering new forms, and incorporating innovation.

Picasso’s art was relatively unpolitical before he painted Guernica. While World War 1 had little impact on his work, the Nazi bombing of the Basque city of Guernica forced him to confront political issues. To rebut rumors of his sympathies for Franco Picasso made a public statement about the Guernica mural: 

The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? When the rebellion began, the legally elected and democratic republican government of Spain appointed me director of the Prado Museum, a post which I immediatley accepted. In the panel on which I am working which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death...

Six days after the bombing of Guernica Picasso began work on mural for the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Paris held in summer of 1937. Having accepted a commission from the Spanish government in January 1937 to paint a mural (11 feet 6 in high by 25 feet 8 in long). The theme of the mural was not decided until the bombing provided the topic. Guernica was painted in near monochrome (shades of grey with some purplish and bluish and brownish tints).

Source: http://homepage.mac.com/dmhart/WarArt/StudyGuides/Picasso.html#source

War And Art

Pablo Picasso's Mural "Guernica" (1937)

 Background of the Mural

Scene takes place in darkness in an open space, possibly a town square surrounded by burning buildings. Figures within the triangle: fleeing woman, the wounded horse (suffering humanity, originally had small winged horse/soul leaving gash in side), the broken statue of the warrior (classical image perhaps of fallen Spanish republicans). Tip of triangle "eye" of electric light globe (image of sun/eye) and woman with the lamp (light holding darkness/bull at bay). To right burning building with falling woman (perhaps also burning, in stance of suffering Mary Magdelene). To left wailing woman with dead baby (originally on ladder, like bringing Christ down from the cross) behind which stand bull (threatening or protecting woman and child?). Other figures are bird (rising or falling, originally small winged horse/soul) and flower (symbol of regeneration and hope, like 600 year old tree left standing).


Other Work from the Spanish Civil War

Cartoon strip - "The Dream and Lie of Franco" (8 February 1937)


Woman and Dead Child, 1937


World War II

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The Charnel House, 1944-45


Still Life of a Skull, Pitcher and Leeks, 1945


The Korean War

The Massacre of the Korean People, 1951


War and Peace, 1951


Illustrations for 1934 Edition of Lysistrata

Mlles d' Avignon


Lysistrata with Warrior and Child


Other Works of War and Peace


Picasso created tales of the Minotaur, of fauns and satyrs, and of bullfighting. In Minotauromachy (1935), he combined the Minotaur myth and the violence of the bullfight in a highly symbolic, enigmatic scene that is considered a milestone of modern printmaking.


Peace Poster, 1949





Face of Peace, 1950


Peace Poster 1962


Hands Entrwined III