Essay about Guernica Pablo Picasso Analysis

Art is a part of our daily life and is present in numerous cultures across the world. It can affect our mood in a positive or disturbing way. Art provides us with a broad understanding of self-awareness and emotions. It allows us to express our imagination and human creative skills. Art grants us a distinct insight into our history. Pablo Picasso is one of the most profound artist of the twentieth century, but was deeply rooted in the art of the past. Guernica is powerful because of color and lighting, symbolism, and use of line. Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, in Malaga, Spain, in 1881.

His full name is Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Picasso’s father was Don Jose Ruiz Blasco, an art teacher and painter. His mother’s name was Dona Maria Picasso y Lopez. According to legend, Picasso’s first words were “piz, piz,” his attempt at saying “lapiz,” the Spanish word for pencil. Although Picasso was a comparably poor student, he presented an ability for drawing and painting at a young age. At thirteen, his skill level had outweighed his father’s.

When Picasso was fourteen years old, he moved to Barcelona, Spain and attended the city’s influential School of Fine Arts because of his remarkable entrance exam. In 1897, he moved to Madrid to attend the Royal Academy of San Fernando. Picasso moved back to Barcelona in 1899, and broke away from the classical methods in which he had been trained because he was influenced by radicals and anarchists who he met at a cafe. Historians and art critics classified Picasso’s adult career into three periods, the Blue Period, Rose Period, and Classical Period.

The first period lasted from 901 to 1904 and the color blue influenced nearly all of Picasso’s paintings during these years. “The Rose Period” involved beiges, pinks and reds. Picasso’s works between 1918 and 1927 are organized as part of his “Classical Period,” a blunt return to Realism in a career otherwise controlled by experimentation. He became the creator of Cubism with Georges Braque. For eighty of his ninetyone years, Picasso dedicated himself to an artistic production that gave partially to modern art. He died on April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France (Pablo).

Guernica is one of Picasso’s greatest political statements. It portrays an event in the Spanish Civil War that took place on April 26, 1937 (Guernica). That day, Republican Basque troops, who were attacking the Fascist forces of General Francisco Franco. were evacuating toward Bilbao on the northern Spanish shore. “A bridge over the Mandaca River, at the edge of a town of 7,000 people called Guernica, was the last escape route for vehicles in the area, and the German air force, which had come to the aid of Franco, were determined to destroy it” (Sayre 522).

The aggression was projected by Wolfram von Richthofen. The force resided of three squadrons- a compromise of thirty-three planes. Each was armed with several hundred narrow incendiary cylinders and 3,000 pounds of bombs. The outbreak began at 4:30 P. M. and lasted for three hours. The first bombs were released close by the railroad station-the bridge was overlooked-and from that point on, the planes dropped their bombs into the dust and smoke surged by the first explosions. Nearly 1,000 individuals had been killed and fifteen blocks were ruined (522).

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, The Crucifixion, and The Dream and Lie of Franco influenced Picasso (Payne 149). Guernica is a monumental twenty-six foot mural canvas painted with oil. The work is seen as a mixture of epic and rustic styles. It relies on a central pyramidal design like The Crucifixion and is painted in black, gray, and whites. The lack of color “generates a quality as if in a photographic record” (Payne 148-149). At the center of the canvas is a dying horse penetrated by a spear dropped or slung from above. At the left stands an unmoved bull who examines the scene.

Between the heads of the horse and the bull is a bird with an open beak. Above, to the right a figure slants from a window detaining a lamp which throws light upon the carnage. Over all glows an eye with an electric bulb as a pupil. At the right of the picture a woman is seen with raised arms falling from a burning house, another hurrying in toward the center of the canvas. To the left a mother with a dead child and on the ground the useless fragments of a warrior’s figure, one hand grasping a broken sword near which a flower grows.

Most of the drawing is flat in effect with irregular foreshortening in the mouth of the horse or in the hands of the fallen warrior. There are indications of space in the lines in the upper corners. The canvas is divided in half and the halves are cut by diagonals which form a triangle (Picasso 11). Picasso utilized black, gray, and whites to enhance the scene. The color black resembles death while the white refers to life. He dispensed with colors in order to convey his “idea” of light through a symbol, the lamp, which occupies, but the smallest part of the canvas.

Picasso organized his lights and shades, his blacks and whites, by “following an arrangement independent of any light projection, very much in the manner that a chessboard would be arranged if one took as a basis the plastic volume and the occasional relief of the chess figures” (Picasso 29). Picasso also utilized contrasting light effects. The light at the center of the canvas reveals the presumption that, like the other human activities concentrated in this critical moment of transition it, too, is in search of the human conscience (30).

Many elements of the painting refer to surrealist dream symbolism. The horse and bull are vital characters in Spanish culture. Some critics believe the rampaging bull, a major motif of destruction here, represents Picasso’s ego. However, other critics suppose the bull symbolizes the onslaught of Fascism. Picasso said it meant darkness and brutality, presumably reminiscent of his prophetic. The mother with the dead child represents the Catholic image of the Virgin and her child. The bird, between the heads of the horse and the bull is a portrayal of broken peace.

Some believe the flower in the soldier’s hand is an interpretation of a ray of hope amongst all of the destruction. The triangle in the middle of the canvas suggests the composition of a Greek temple. He also stated that “the horse dying in misery represented the people of Guernica” (Guernica). The entire scene represents Spain itself. The electric light bulb, at the top of the canvas, and the oil lamp held by the woman reaching out the window represent new and old ways of seeing (Sayre 522). Guernica relies on a balance between straight and curved lines (Payne 149).

Picasso painted sharp edges on his geometric shapes. The animals and people in his work utilize a combination of bowed and crisp lines. One can feel a sense of movement in the painting because some of the lines flow across the canvas. Picasso also utilized sharp angles and jagged lines throughout his piece. The lines in the upper corners signal space. Picasso’s work was an immediate response to the Nazi’s destructive bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was art’s conviction of Fascism as depicted by General Franco and the rise of Hitler.

It prefigured the world’s horror and showed the catastrophes of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly virtuous civilians. Picasso’s iconography became a profound statement upon the futility of war in the twentieth century (Payne 148-149). The mural was “to be the centerpiece of the pavilion of the Spanish government in exile at the 1937 Universal Exposition in Paris” (Galassi 87). The painting helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention. Today, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is considered the precursor and stimulus of Cubism.

In Cubist paintings, “objects are broken apart and reassembled in an abstracted form, highlighting their composite geometric shapes and depicting them from multiple, simultaneous viewpoints in order to create physics-defying, collage-like effects” (Pablo). Cubism startled, alarmed, and captivated the art world. Picasso, who was supportive to the Republican side and who considered himself exiled in Paris, was infuriated at the events (Sayre 522). The bombing influenced him to paint Guernica. During these years there was technological advancements like vehicles, planes, railroad stations, incendiary cylinders, bridges, and bombs.

I chose my artwork because I knew it was one of Picasso’s most well-known paintings. Picasso is an artist that is always spoke about, but I had never researched his work. I did not know there was so much meaning behind Guernica. At first it just looked like a crazy black and white painting. I was impressed at the way Picasso used symbolism to demonstrate the emotion of the people. I was also fascinated by the amount of detail used in this artwork. The most interesting symbol to me was the light bulb. Guernica became a continuous reminder of the tragedies of war, an epitome of peace, and an anti-war symbol.

It was displayed around the world in a temporary tour and became widely acclaimed. Interpretations of Picasso’s work vary universally and disprove one another. This work of art is powerful because of color and lighting, symbolism, and use of line. Picasso utilized three colors for his painting and created different lighting effects. The horse and bull are symbols Picasso used in many of his artworks because they represented Spain. One can tell the difference between an animal and a person because of the use of lines. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are the creators of Cubism. Guernica will always remain a dominant political statement.