In researching Picasso’s Guernica and its relevance in modern times, I felt it completely necessary to visit the town of Guernica, located in a region of Northern Spain, known as the Basque Country. To get to Guernica, I took a bus from Bilbao, where I spent two days, mainly to see the Guggenheim Bilbao, but where I also found an exhibition in the local library, the Biscay Provincial Library, which was entitled “Guernica: Del proceso a la obra” (“Guernica: From the Process to the Work of Art). The Exhibition consisted of 42 drawings Picasso made in preparation for the creation of Guernica.
According to the exhibition, Picasso began these preparations on April 1, 1937 and began work on the actual masterpiece on April 11, 1937. During those ten days, he produced these 42 sketches, which give an idea of what was going through Picasso’s mind during the creative process of Guernica.
The sketches and the exhibition alike emphasize that from the beginning, as far as composition and meaning, Picasso was positive of his aim for the painting, from its inception.
To see the exhibition catalog, click here.
Upon visiting Guernica, which is a short bus ride from Bilbao, one would never suspect it to be the town famed for a gruesome Nazi attack during the Spanish Civil War on April 26, 1937. My main reason for visiting Guernica, was to see the Gernika Peace Museum Foundation. The museum has a great emphasis on peace, find it, making it, and the role of peace in Guernica.
The Museum consists of a large section on what Guernica was like at the time of the bombing and what life was like before and after. It goes into the specifics of the attack and the politics surrounding it and end with the importance of reconciliation and the reconciliation between Guernica and Germany, which was established in 1997, a peace that took 60 years to contract.
Next the Museum has a section on human rights, which it explains through Picasso’s Guernica and its symbols (bull, horse, dove, etc.). The juxtaposition of a list of human rights, explanations concerning these rights, and Guernica, is very powerful.
Through my trip to Guernica I came to appreciate the fact that there was a complete lack of any grudge or any remnants of hard feelings over the ordeal which the town lived through. Instead its stands proud and strong, holding onto an attitude of pacifism that is extremely admirable.
To visit the Gernika Peace Museum’s website, click here.