Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Picasso and Guernica

with 4 comments

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The Spanish Republican government had wanted a heroic piece to showcase the modern Spain at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Pablo Picasso turned his commission into anything but. Under his brush, the tragic bombing of Gernika, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, into a nerve-wrecking elegy of individual suffering and an embodiment of peace.

Fully of hidden images, allegorical figures and meaningful gravitas, Guernica depicted suffering people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos. At its unveiling at the World’s Fair, David Seymour (Chim) was on hand to photograph the artist in front of his work as it received its first public showing (above). Chim proved more amenable to the piece than his contemporaries who was widely criticized the painting. The German fair guide called it “a hodgepodge of body parts that any four-year old could have painted.” The Soviets, who favored realistic imagery, didn’t like it either. Leftists and communists, the very people who it championed, attacked the painting as devoid of any politics and that it expressed suffering rather than optimism. In Spain, it was declared to be “antisocial and entirely foreign to a healthy proletarian outlook.”

Picasso’s artist friends however realized the importance of the painting very early on. His muse Dora Maar frequented the studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins to make a photographic record of the entire creative process. Along side the painting, the Museo Reina Sofía holds Marr’s twenty-eight photos showing Picasso at work. A tapestry copy, less monochromatic than the original with strong several shades of brown, was donated to the United Nations by the Rockefellers. On February 5, 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work as the Bush Administration objected to it being in the background while the American diplomats argued for war on Iraq.

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Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 9, 2009 at 11:29 am

4 Responses

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  1. “Guernica” now resides at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – the modern art museum in Madrid. It moved from the Prado some time ago.

    Eric

    November 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    • i stand corrected–always knew it is not good idea to rely on your own memory.

      thequintessential

      November 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  2. […] palate and teeth, her mouth twisted in pain, was reminiscent of screaming mouths depicted on Picasso’s Guernica. It was quickly dubbed the “Bentalha Madonna”, and controversy ensued. It was revealed that […]

    Davids against goliaths «

    January 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm

  3. […] In the 1930s, Catalonia attempted two declarations of autonomy, claiming itself a state within a federal structure. This, along with rising socialism, communism, and anarchism,  gave cause to the rightwing reactionaries and finally an all-out Civil War. As it took place as picture magazines are getting popular, the Spanish Civil War was covered by photojournalists and yellow journalists alike. The most famous images of the war were by Robert Capa and by Dora Maar, of her lover Picasso painting Guernica. […]


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