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Criticism of Pablo Picasso’s painting entitled “Guernica” Essay



Over the years, art has been viewed as a form of expression by scholars, enthusiasts and critiques. Art comes in different forms including paintings, architecture, poetry, and literature among others.

Each style of art has its significance depending on the artist and the audience. In particular, paintings have been used to tell stories, express emotions and solicit various reactions from people.

This paper shall critique Pablo Picasso’s painting entitled “Guernica”. This shall be done by describing, interpreting and evaluating the aforementioned work of art.

Descriptive analysis

The original painting was commissioned by the government of Spain in January 1937. It is believed that the painting was to represent the bombing and destruction experienced in Guernica during the civil unrest in Spain.

It is painted on a 138″ x 308″ canvas. Picasso used oil based paint to create this magnificent piece of art and only gray scale colors were used. These colors were similar to the ink used to print newspapers during the civil war in Spain.

The colors predominantly used throughout the painting consist of different shades of white and black. The artist has employed the use of lines and the formation of geometric shapes can be seen throughout the paint.

In this painting, texture is not as pronounced as in most of Picasso’s works. It is a two dimensional painting, in which all of the painted objects appear flat. This is a clear revelation of Picasso’s cubism style.

On the same note, Picasso has made good use of the canvas space. The mural occupies nearly all the space within the canvas and maintains the necessary balance required to make the painting enjoyable.

Visually, the artwork contains images of a bull, a horse, a soldier holding a broken sword, a distressed woman holding a baby and an oval shape resembling an eye with a bulb at its center among others.

It is an accurate representation of the chaos that emanates when hateful human relationships prevail in a society (in this case; Guernica, Spain).

Interpretive analysis

Symbolism is used extensively throughout this piece of art. The symbolic images in this painting have been subject to misinterpretation by various people. Generally, the painting has been viewed as a representation of the bombings that led to the loss of lives and destruction of property in Guernica, Spain.

The use of black and white colors has been interpreted as a representation of sadness and darkness that covered this region during the civil war.

However, research indicates that Picasso’s real intent was not to focus on the bombings but rather, to express the problem and its solutions.

For example, according to Picasso, the bull did not represent fascism. It symbolized the brutality and darkness experienced during that time.

Similarly, the soldier with a broken sword symbolized the broken spirits and resistance inadequacies among the people. The woman holding a baby represents a concern for the loss of lives.

The eye represents Guernica and the bulb within the eye symbolizes the bombs that fell from the German fighter planes. The horse represents the people.

The horse, which is placed at the center of the painting has gashing wounds and seems to be in pain and agony. This symbolizes the cruelty and victimization faced by the people of Guernica (or Spain).

From this analysis, it is evident that the mural represents the effects of human conflict on society. It focuses on the chaos that arises when people fight amongst themselves and the disruptions that emanate from violence.

The overall movement of the painting is indicative of a situation whereby life has come to a standstill and there is no time to get some peace or real rest.

The artist has effectively used the symbolic images to imprint a lasting graphical image of the destructive incidence (Guernica Bombings) in the minds of the audience.

Evaluative analysis

Arguably, most art works are judged by analyzing the artist’s ability to express his/her message creatively and intuitively. As an artist, Picasso perfected his artistic career by evolving his skills through different artistic periods.

As a result, he helped in the development of the cubism style of art, which can be seen in most of his works. However, to some extent, some aspects of this painting do not conform to traditional cubism.

For example, the mural is two dimensional as dictated by the cubism style of painting. However, it is not fractured as is with most paintings created using the same style.

As one observes the painting, it is very easy to see the effort and planning that went into creating this mural. The choice, placement and coloring of the images are indicative of an above average level of organization.

This facilitates a better understanding of the painting by the audience. The use of symbolism is effective to say the least. At a glance, one is able to see the story even before knowing the context.

To a great extent, the images are self explanatory and provide a sufficient graphical depiction of a society in pain and chaos. Personally, I think that the artist succeeded in creating an emotion provoking and appealing piece of art unmatched by most modern day art.

This assertion is backed by the excellent use of symbolism, which pushes an observer to conceptualize the painting and think beyond what he/she sees.

Given the chance, I would like to see the original “Guernica”. In a quest to understand this mural, one cannot help but respect its artistic integrity, as well as the creativity and intuition of Pablo Picasso as an artist.

“Guernica” is truly an artistic masterpiece that seeks to send a political statement and an artistic one at the same. It is a constant reminder that war leads to suffering, and an advocate for peace and unity.


Throughout this critique, it is evident that art plays a pivotal role in society. “Guernica” is among the best antiwar artworks in the world. Picasso’s painting acts as a reminder and a warning to the tragedies brought about by war and violence.

It played a significant role in sensitizing the world about the pain and suffering that was being experienced by Spaniards during the civil wars in Spain. The structural format of “Guernica” has been discussed and a descriptive analysis of the painting offered.

The use and significance of symbolism has also been highlighted. An evaluation of style and artistic competence of the mural have also been provided. From the information provided above, it is evident that Picasso was a creative and intuitive artist worth the recognition.

He managed to create overwhelming emotions and compel change among his audience through his works. Overall, “Guernica” is a good example of practical art since its message is still applicable even in today’s societies.

Appendix 1: Pablo Picasso’s painting entitled “Guernica”

Pablo Picasso’s painting entitled Guernica
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1. IvyPanda. "Criticism of Pablo Picasso's painting entitled "Guernica"." December 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criticism-of-pablo-picassos-painting-entitled-guernica/.


IvyPanda. "Criticism of Pablo Picasso's painting entitled "Guernica"." December 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criticism-of-pablo-picassos-painting-entitled-guernica/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Criticism of Pablo Picasso's painting entitled "Guernica"." December 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criticism-of-pablo-picassos-painting-entitled-guernica/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Criticism of Pablo Picasso's painting entitled "Guernica"'. 10 December.

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