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. Throughout his long and prolific career, Picasso explored a wide range of themes, from love and relationships to politics and war. One of his most famous works related to war and peace is the aptly named “War and Peace” (Guernica) series.
Picasso “War and Peace” series is a set of two large murals created for the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The murals, which were unveiled in 1952, were intended to promote peace and were a response to the horrors of World War II.
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).
The first mural by Picasso, “War,” depicts the horrors of war with images of death, destruction, and suffering. The painting is dominated by dark, muted tones and features a central figure, a mother holding her dead child. This figure is believed to be inspired by the Spanish Civil War, which had a significant impact on Picasso.
In contrast, the second mural, “Peace,” features a brighter color palette and imagery of hope and reconciliation. The central figure of the painting is a white dove, a universal symbol of peace, and the surrounding imagery depicts people coming together in harmony.
The dove of peace is a recurring theme in Picasso’s work related to war and peace. In fact, Pablo Picasso’s dove of peace meaning has become a powerful symbol of hope and unity for many people around the world. The dove first appeared in one of Picasso’s works in 1949 when he created a lithograph to support the World Peace Congress. The image of a white dove carrying an olive branch soon became associated with peace movements around the world.
The “War and Peace” by Picasso serves as a powerful reminder of the devastating impact of war and the importance of striving for peace. His bold and vivid paintings convey a powerful message of hope and optimism, even in the face of unimaginable suffering.