Pablo Picasso

(1881-1973)

"Painting is not intended for interior decoration, it is an instrument of offensive and defensive war against the enemy."

Picasso's mural: Guernica

A Brief Analysis of Guernica

Guernica is the title of the famous 1937 mural by Pablo Picasso. Guernica is also a small village in northern Spain that was bombed during the Spanish civil war in April 26, 1937. The brutal assault destroyed the town and many innocent lives were lost. Picasso expressed his outrage of the savage attack in his mural, Guernica.


The mural is a carefully balanced design. It is constructed on a scheme of a medieval altarpiece - a large central panel framed by two smaller side panels.

Representative image of an altarpiece

The order of such design is contrasted with the chaos and panic introduced by the angular distortions of form and the violent contrasts of light, shade and texture.

Triangle design in mural


The absence of color in Guernica adds strength to the painting. It also gives it the immediacy of newsprint. The stippled body of the horse has the appearance of a printed newspaper page.

Texture of the horse in Guernica


Picasso chose to use women as the actors in this tragedy to represent innocent humanity victimized by the horrors of war. In the anatomy of their grief, he saw how pain and agony distorts the human face. There is nothing pretty or ennobling in the face of a mother whose child has been killed.

mother and dead child from Guernica

The protective body of the bull frames the mother and child, and it's to his monumental image that the mother's cry is directed. The mother's eyes are large teardrops.
The dead child's face is drawn simply, showing neither pain nor fear. His gentle face is a reminder that the bombing of Guernica was a massacre of the innocent.


Image of the bull in Guernica

The bull, the only stable and unmutilated figure in the composition, may be interpreted as the indestructible spirit of Spain, aware of the horrors suffered by her people, but capable of enduring and overcoming them.


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Copywright 2001, Sheila E. Fridman, Gainesville, Fla.
This site was last updated Wednesday, March 15, 2001.
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