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Picasso’s Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text Essay

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Updated: Jul 6th, 2021

Introduction

Artistic works often attract people’s attention to the most urgent issues and make the public consider the most effective solutions. Artistic texts are often most appealing since they reach people’s hearts and souls and make a profound impression forcing them to discuss important things. Guernica by Pablo Picasso is one of the illustrations of the power of artistic texts that serve as a reminder, facilitator, motivator, or evidence. In his painting, Picasso revealed his attitude towards the war and some forces that could start it (“Guernica”). The artist stressed that his artwork was a response to the horrible aftermaths of the bombing of Guernica, as well as the overall concept of war. This paper includes a brief analysis of the iconic painting that can be seen as one of the most remarkable warnings to humanity.

Background

Spain in the 1930s was a battlefield between the forces of Republicans and Nationalists who had opposing views regarding the future of their country. Republicans believed that Spain needed peaceful and liberal transformations that would lead to progress. However, Nationalists focused on totalitarian methods and the supremacy of some groups, as well as the denial of certain basic rights (Cox 24). Nationalists were supported by another oppressing regime of the first part of the 20th century, German Nazis. The attack of German aircraft that caused the major destruction of Guernica, a Spanish city, had a substantial impact on Picasso (Cox 23). At that period, the artist was decorating an exhibition in Paris, but changed his initial plan and created the work in response to the fascist attack.

Interpretation

The artistic text in question is full of symbols and allusions that have been interpreted in many ways. The artist himself explained only some aspects of the painting and encouraged people to decipher his message or find their own meanings (Cox 82). As mentioned above, the painting is all about war and its horrors. One of the primary impressions the artwork creates is the sense of complete chaos since the figures are scattered across the painting (“Guernica”).

It is possible to interpret this chaotic location and postures of figures as a symbol of the chaos wars create. Any attack is characterized by civilians’ horror and despair. The weeping women who are trapped in a house on fire or the mother holding her dead child represent the major horrors of war. The figure of the horse is a symbolic representation of the forces of Republicans who tried to fight and defend people. The horse is also caught in motion trying to react, but everything seems rather hopeless.

Notably, one of the figures that remain calm and observant is the bull. The bull is an embodiment of Fascism and brutality that takes the form of the animal that has a very specific role in the Spanish culture (Cox 82). The bull is the only figure that seems to be in control of the situation and keeps watching carefully with no empathy or even emotion (“Guernica”). This attitude stands for the way Hitler provided his aid to the Spanish dictator Franco and, simultaneously, managed to try his new killing machines.

He did not care about the suffering of people but observed the extent to which the set goals had been achieved with the help of the bombing. This quiet observer also makes the viewer think about those who benefit (or often think they benefit) from war. There is always a small group of people who start a war and millions of those who lose their homes, their health, and their lives.

It is necessary to note that the way Picasso communicates his messages makes it reach so many people and resonate with modern times. The painting is produced using three colors exclusively. The painter used a blue background and utilized black and white, to make the painting similar to the reports provided in newspapers (Cox 82). This approach creates a very specific atmosphere of chronicle that can and does affect all people’s lives to a different extent.

White and black are also instrumental in depicting darkness (Fascism, Nazism, and war) and some sources of light (freedom, compassion, and knowledge). Two major sources of light (a lamp and a candle) can also be interpreted as people’s attempts to discover the truth and understand what is happening. However, real warmakers are often in the shadow of false ideals and propaganda.

Conclusion

On balance, it is possible to state that Guernica is an epochal artwork that serves as a warning and reminder for Picasso’s contemporaries, as well as modern people. Those who lived in the first part of the 20th century missed Picasso’s message, as well as many other individuals’ concerns, which led to the deadliest and most devastating wars in the history of humanity. At present, people are also making similar mistakes, which leads to excessive violence in many regions of the planet. However, such masterpieces as Guernica show that war can bring nothing more but brutality and devastation. Perhaps, people, especially those in power, need to look at Picasso’s work more often to remember past mistakes.

Works Cited

Cox, Neil. An Interview with Pablo Picasso. Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC, 2014.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Rena Sofia, n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, July 6). Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/picassos-guernica-interpreting-an-artistic-text/

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"Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text." IvyPanda, 6 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/picassos-guernica-interpreting-an-artistic-text/.

1. IvyPanda. "Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text." July 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/picassos-guernica-interpreting-an-artistic-text/.


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IvyPanda. "Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text." July 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/picassos-guernica-interpreting-an-artistic-text/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text." July 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/picassos-guernica-interpreting-an-artistic-text/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Picasso's Guernica: Interpreting an Artistic Text'. 6 July.

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