The 80th anniversary of Guernica


Facade of the Hôtel Salé © Musée national Picasso-Paris, 2015/Fabien Campoverde


Guernica was painted by Picasso after the civilian bombing of the village Guernica in the Spanish civil war. This monumental painting, which depicts the misery of war, is one of the most important works of art produced in the 20th century. The Picasso Museum in Paris is currently holding the exhibition “Guernica” in cooperation with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, where the painting is permanently kept. The exhibition explores the contemporary circumstances, his work leading up to the creation of the painting, and the response after its presentation.

The indiscriminate bombing of Guernica happened on the 26th of April 1937. Two days later, photographs and testimonies reached Paris, and Picasso learned of the tragedy that had befallen Guernica. Three days after this, on the 1st of May, he had already begun work on Guernica, and one month later, on the 4th of June, he had completed it.

The photographer Dora Maar documented the progression of Guernica’s creation. We see recorded in detail traces of the artist’s battle in front of the vast canvas, 349 centimeters high and 777 centimeters wide. From the photographs we can tell that all sorts of changes were made: the fist which had been drawn in an early stage upon a sun background was erased again, works first placed in an outdoor landscape were changed to indoor sceneries.

The exhibition displays several contemporaneous newspaper articles which tell us about the civilian bombing of Guernica, and the reception of Guernica in Spain. In addition, there are Spanish civil war posters, a display of previous works by Picasso, parts of which he used for Guernica, and the series of studies he made during the production; these all make for a multifarious exploration of the masterpiece Guernica. Also on display is the documentation of the painting’s subsequent trajectory around the world as a symbol for the fight against fascism, and the many contemporaneous art works influenced by Guernica.

Aligning its timing to the “Guernica” exhibition, London’s Tate Modern is showing the exhibition “Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy” until the 9th of September; next, from the 18th of September, the exhibition “Picasso. Blue and Rose” will open at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It looks like there is a lot of attention returning to Picasso this year.

The exhibition “Guernica” will be on until the 29th of July.

Musée national Picasso-Paris

5 rue de Thorigny
75003 Paris

Opening times:
Tuesday – Friday: 10:30 – 18:00
Saturdays and Sundays: 9:30 – 18:00
July 7 – September 1: 9:30 – 18:00
October 20 – November 5: 9:30 – 18:00
December 22, 2018 – January 7, 2019: 9:30 – 18:00

Closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25