in 1937 Picasso was the most famous artist in the world.
A prolific innovator of art forms,
he had already pioneered cubism, invented collage,
and made major contributions to symbolism and surrealism.
And he was just about to create the most powerful anti-war painting in history.
Monday April the 26th 1937,
German warplanes began appearing in the sky above the small Basque village of Guernica.
It was 4:30 p.m.
and the planes were here on behalf of general Franco’s fascist regime.
and as a macabre rehearsal for the blitzkrieg tactics of World War II.
The attack was timed to maximise civilian casualties.
For over three hours, 25 bombers dropped
100,000 pounds of explosive and incendiary bombs on the village,
reducing it to rubble and killing 1/3 of the population.
This brutal and unprovoked attack shocked the world,
it also inspired Picasso to produce a political painting,
which is as relevant today
as it was when he produced it over 80 years ago.
in 1936 a group of right-wing generals launched a military coup
on the legally elected Spanish Republic
and started the Spanish Civil War.
The war had been going on for six months
when Picasso was given a commission
to produce a large-scale mural for the Spanish Republic’s Pavilion
at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris，
where Picasso was living.
Picasso was famously apolitical
and told the Republicans “I don’t do politics”,
but after months of staring as a blank canvas
he was still struggling to come up with ideas.
History intervened and Picasso found his subject.
Like the rest of the world,
he opened his newspaper on April the 27th
to find devastating images of the bombing of Guernica.
Picasso was horrified
and frantically started work on new sketches for the Commission.
He would complete the enormous painting in only three weeks.
Perhaps Picasso’s greatest skill was reinvention?
In the Demoiselles d’Avignon
he played with idealized female beauty.
and in Guernica,
he would reinvigorate the genre of historical painting.
The first thing you notice is the gigantic size. It is four meters by eight meters
首先能注意到的是它巨大的尺寸 它大小有4*8 米
or 11 feet by 26 feet,
and is one piece of material
rather than several canvases sewn together.
After Paris it was to be sent around the world to raise money for Spain.
Because of the size,
each time it travelled the canvas had to be removed from the stretcher,
rolled up, packed, and shipped again and again.
卷起 包装 以及运输
In that sense we can compare Guernica
to portable tapestries known in Spain as “Sagas”.
They were used in Spain and other countries, from the fifteenth century –
as temporary curtains banners and wall hangings during Lent
like Guernica, it was propaganda – but of a religious kind.
比如《格尔尼卡》 它也是一种宣传 但是是宗教性质的
He primed the canvas with several layers of reflective lead white，
an antiquated paint base used by Leonardo da Vinci.
Picasso wanted a reflective surface to paint on.
The ground layer was important, as it was to form part of the composition.
He used normal household paint with a minimum amount of gloss,
so the white parts of the painting are luminous, whereas the blacks are matt black.
The speed at which he paints, leave splashes such as here
他上色的速度很快 导致有喷溅痕迹 例如这里
and mistakes – adding to the urgency of the painting.
The other thing you notice straight away is the absence of colour,
but in 1937 people only experience current events in black and white,
and Guernica was as current as you could get.
Picasso himself saw the Spanish Civil War
play out in black and white in newspapers,
and he even gives us a suggestion of torn newsprint in the horse’s chainmail.
Picasso was the magpie of the art world,
with an encyclopaedic knowledge of art history.
With Guernica, it is these visual references that anchor the work.
Peter PaulRubens, was an artist Picasso loved,
and Rubens painting “An Allegory Showing the Effects of War” from 1638,
is the work the most inspired Picasso’s Guernica.
If we flip Rubens painting,
we can see the similarities in composition.
From left to right we get a weeping woman with a child in her arms.
A flying fury of war, holding out a torch,
and a woman facing the heavens with outstretched arms.
We can also compare the weeping woman to Michelangelo’s”La Pieta”
and the flying fury to Prud’hons “Allegory of Justice”
Goya, an artist Picasso admired is another inspiration.
3rd of May 1808 also depicts a nighttime massacre.
The central figures pose is reminiscent of the screaming woman
and inevitably both figures can be compared to a crucifixion,
and in both paintings we find the sign of the stigmata.
There are also comparisons to be made with his own earlier work.
But there is more than just iconographic inspiration here.
Picasso’s Guernica has no specific references
to the actual bombing of the Basque village.
He has created a fictitious scene
whose intensity evokes the suffering of all wars.
Guernica is an allegorical painting
in the same way Ruben‘s work
is an allegorical response to the 30 Years’ war.
The scene is intentionally chaotic
to evoke the horror and confusion of war.
We are thrown into apocalyptic action where characters overlap and intersect.
Destruction, violent death and mutilation are everywhere.
破坏 惨死 以及残尸都随处可见
Despite Picasso’s avant-garde qualities. he trained as a classical artist
and Guernica uses classical language.
Despite the chaos, there is in fact a clear visual order.
Picasso balances the composition by organizing the figures
into three vertical groupings, moving left to right,
while the central figures are stabilized within a large triangle of light.
To the far left we see a wide-eyed bull
with a dark body and white head.
The horse and bull are images Picasso used his entire career.
Part of the life and death ritual of Spanish bullfights.
The bull is the only figure that is looking at us, the viewer.
Picasso himself thought of the bull as representing brutality and darkness.
Its gaze is cold and detached.
It has come to be seen as representing Fascism or Franco himself.
Its tail smoulders like the smoking remains of Guernica.
Underneath the bull,
a woman is holding a dead child, screaming towards the heavens,
her bare breasts that once fed her child are exposed,
and her eyes are in the shape of tears.
She is a secular virgin and child tainted by war.
Further down lies a dead soldier representing both futility and hope.
His disjointed parts are strewn about the floor.
One severed arm carries a Broken Sword of failure
from which grows a white poppy – the symbol of remembrance and hope.
In his other hand the signs of the stigmata, represent the ultimate sacrifice.
Between the bull and the horse we can just about see a dove,
normally a representation of peace.
Picasso‘s version, with his pained expression and broken body
suggests that peace is all but destroyed.
The light bulb is the single image of 20th century technology
and has multiple meanings.
Perhaps it is the eye of God overlooking the madness of war?
The more accepted interpretation
is that it represents the technology that destroyed Guernica.
In Spanish the word for lights bulb is “bombilla”,
which brings to mind the word “bomb”.
The screaming horse at the center is collapsing from his gaping wound
but its head remains upward as it struggles to live.
You can almost hear those ear piercing screams.
Picasso himself saw the terrorised horse as the people of Guernica.
The burning woman is perhaps the strongest representation
of the paintings anti-war feeling.
A woman is trapped in a burning building, pleading at the sky
perhaps to God?
Perhaps to the German planes to stop the destruction?
As she does so, the building continues to burn and
crumble around her. Death is inevitable.
Another terrified woman with an injured leg
bleeding from the knee and trying to stop the blood with her hand.
She is looking longingly towards the oil lamp
It is actually the oil lamp, which is the source of the light in the scene.
and not the electric light bulb.
The tiny flame is hope.
And it is strong enough to shed light upon the entire scene.
It is the only sliver of Hope in the painting
and is thought to represent the spirit of the Spanish Republic.
Guernica is not supposed to have a singular interpretation.
As Picasso said: “We all know that art is not truth.
Art is a lie that makes us realise truth”
Guernica’s ambiguityand lack of specific historical detail
make the painting timeless.
Picasso worked on the painting for 35 days
and finished it on the 4th of June1937.
When it was unveiled at the Paris Expo,
the public reaction was mixed.
It was too avant-garde for the Spanish officials,
who preferred another more traditional painting
that they’d also commissioned By Horacio Ferrer.
However – after Paris, Guernica’s reputation started to grow steadily,
然而 巴黎展之后 《格尔尼卡》
as it travelled the world to raise money for the Republican cause.
The start of the Second World War
made its imagery more recognisable – and painfully familiar.
News announcer: “A most eventful year – Spain’s three-year-old civil war ends,
and Generalissimo Franco enters Barcelona”
Picasso refused to allow the painting to be seen inSpain while Franco ruled.
And Guernica was senton another tour.
This time to the United States,
to raise money for Spanish refugees fleeing Fascism.
By 1940, it was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York,
where it stayed on semi-permanent display for the next forty years.
Picasso continued livingin Nazi occupied Paris.
It is said that when a German officer visited him,
he saw a photograph of Guernica on Picasso’s wall.
He asked Picasso:”Did you do that?”
Picasso replied: “No YOU did”
In NewYork, Guernica’s fame grew,
and during the Vietnam War it became a powerful anti-war symbol.
In 1974 aprotester defaced the painting, with the words “KILL LIES ALL”.
1974年 一位抗议者在画上写道“KILL LIES ALL”
It created international headlines.
Guernica was covered in heavy varnish
and the graffiti did no real damage at all.
The fact thatGuernica inspired such passions
was a testament toits enduring power
Picasso died in 1973 at the age of 91.
He had produced 50,000 works of art,
including 1,885 paintings.
While numerous works by Picasso are masterpieces,
Guernica stands alone.
Franco died in 1975,
and with democracy restored, the paintings long exile was over.
Even in the 21st century, Guernica was causing controversy.
A tapestry of Guernica was put on display at the United Nations.
In 2003 the, then Secretary of State Colin Powell.
delivered a televised speech at the UN – arguing for war on Iraq.
In a form of blatant censorship the Bush administration,
requested that the tapestry was covered up.
It is extraordinary that over 60 years AFTER its completion
Guernica’s message worried even the most powerful nation on earth.
No work of art in the 20th century has left its mark,
in quite the way Guernica has.
It has become the universal symbol of indiscriminate slaughter,
and it has helped to shape a century.
The lessons of Guernica, of universal suffering have still not beenlearned.
And that is why Guernica is just as important today as it was in 1937
Guernica is not just “contemporary art”,
It is history.
in 1937 Picasso was the most famous artist in the world.