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Art Essay – Guernica

Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica is a true Masterpiece; he conceived/developed the idea of Guernica and resolved all issues with the finished product in 1937, during the bombing of a little Basque village named Guernica in Northern Spain. This world of unprecedented atrocities was the major influence on Picasso. He used techniques and innovations such as newspaper, dismantling traditional forms (marking the beginning of cubism), using sharp edges and the black and grey tones to focus the viewer’s eye on what is actually occurring in the painting.

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From the way Pablo Picasso’s conceived and developed the ideas of Guernica is what makes the painting a masterpiece. It represents the soul and spirit of Picasso. He used this painting to depict a form of communication that an artist employs as a substitution for words. On April 27th, 1937 Nazi bombing caused the virtual obliteration of the small town of Guernica. This was where Picasso’s inspiration came from. The town was to be employed as bombing practice for some new war machinery, which pounded Guernica with high explosives and bombs for three hours and soldiers who machine-gunned the townspeople.

The town burned for three days after the unnecessary exploitation it endured. This resulted in sixteen hundred civilians being killed or wounded. It is in this powerful painting that Picasso captures the horror and brutal destruction that man is able to commit against their fellow man. This work tells the story. The painting Guernica itself is grey, black and white, 3. 5 meters tall and 7. 8 meters wide, painted on a mural-size canvas in oil. It illustrates the suffering of people, animals and building that are overwhelmed by chaos and violence.

The image we receive from Guernica is that of a bull with a wide eye that is standing over the form of women who it appears is grieving over the child in her arms, which is presumably dead. A horse that is seen to be in agony due to the spear in its side is filling the center of the painting. Underneath the horse it is evident that it’s rider has been killed and seemingly dismembered, we can see in his hand a sword that has been shattered, from which a flower is growing.

Above the horse’s figure is a light bulb that is seen to be in the form of an eye, which represents the sun and all the figures appear to be reaching out towards it, as if it is their salvation from the slaughter. In the right side of the painting we see the image of a female figure, who seems scared to be witnessing the pain and suffering before her. Directly below the floating women, another women is pictured but instead of being scared she is simply staring blankly into the blazing light bulb.

We can see on the dismembered soldiers outstretched hand the image of a stigmata, which represents Jesus Christ’s dying on the cross. The interpretation received from Guernica is that Picasso uses the grey, black and white colour scheme to set a sad mood and express the chaos and pain experienced by those in Guernica. The overall destructive power of man is represented through the buildings, which are on fire. The way in which Picasso learnt of the terrible occurrences in Guernica is represented through the newspaper print.

Although, when Picasso himself was pressed to explain the symbols in Guernica, he said, ‘… This bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are. ’ Picasso uses masterful techniques in Guernica.

He brought out the inner geometric shapes inside the human figure; he destroyed the figure in order to create a new one. This marked the commencement of analytic cubism. He also painted using sharp edges on his shapes instead of illustrating his figures by using shading and light. He paints his tones of black, white and grey in areas of virtually flat colours. These particular techniques help to viewer focus on the underlying message of the painting, the agony brought on by the fierceness and brutality that occurred in Guernica.

Picasso used many innovative techniques; introducing many techniques to the world of art for the first time such as the use of newsprint in his artwork. Influences from Picasso’s background strongly manipulated the way in which Guernica existed. As he was a Catholic and therefore strongly against murder in any degree, this would have impacted his view on the occurrences that took place in Guernica and eventually, would have impacted his painting. The stigma on the mutilated soldiers hand indicates the strong empathy that Picasso felt for these people.

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