REINA SOFIA MUSEUM, Guernica - Description

Audio File length: 3.00
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

You're probably admiring Guernica in the middle of a crowd of visitors: the masterpiece seems to command respect, silence, and an emotional involvement, arousing strong emotions. Yet when the artistic committee that commissioned it saw it for the first time, the committee was puzzled, and almost disappointed! Firstly, it was all "black and white", while for a propaganda painting they had expected at least a few showy splashes of red... Even its cost aroused controversy: Picasso was already famous and was used to receiving impressive payments; in this case he had only asked to be reimbursed for the expenses incurred for Guernica, but they said that he should have donated the art to the country entirely for free.

Why, you ask, did he choose to use only black and white? Perhaps the artist wanted to use the language of the movies of his time: in fact if you think about it, Guernica's size is similar to the size of a newsreel projected on a big screen.

Picasso was 56 years old when he painted it. Its characters' bodies and their features are broken down and "disassembled", in line with Cubism, but when taken in all together it has a monumental consistency equal to the great masterpieces of the Renaissance; the theme of war and violence against the innocent is closely linked to Goya, the Spanish genius who lived between the 1700 and 1800s, and his Los Caprichos, a series of sketches focusing on human brutality.

After observing the painting as a whole, try to "read it" from left to right. The bull at the top is a symbol of brutality, but also a symbol of unwavering resistance that of course makes you think of Picasso's beloved bullfighting; near the bull you can see a woman screaming out in despair while holding her dead son. On the ground you can see the corpse of a warrior clutching a broken sword and a flower, which represent an anachronistic weapon and a small sign of hope: both universal, timeless symbols. On the far right you can see a terrified woman asking for help in vain, while her house is on fire. In the center a wounded horse raises his head neighing, while above him there is a type of stylized light bulb that looks to be a parody of the eye of God, and it seems as if the two women on the right are turned to it in prayer.

 

FUN FACT: when the Germans occupied France in 1940, Picasso's studio in Paris was searched. When an officer found some copies of Guernica, he asked the painter: "Did you do this?", and Picasso promptly replied: "No, you did it!".

And with this we have finished our tour of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid: MyWoWo thanks you for staying with us, and will see you at the next Wonder of the World!

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