Friday, March 5, 2010

March 5: Murals I: Picasso Guernica

Artist: Pablo Picasso (died in 1973 at 92)
Title: Guernica
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Subject: bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish Civil War by German & Italian warplanes by the request of Spanish Nationalist forces
Classifications: anti-war symbol, mural, peace
Date Produced: mid-June 1937
Original Location: Paris World Fair 1937 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (The Celebration of Modern Technology)
Current Location: Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
Size: 137.4 in. x 305.5 in.  (11.45 feet tall x 25.6 ft wide)
Other: The Spanish Republican government commissioned Picasso to create a large mural for display at the World's Fair. A tapestry of the work is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in NYC, commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller in 1955--it is less monochromatic than the original and uses several shades of brown.

The painting shows the suffering of war particularly on innocent civilians, and also includes animals and buildings "wrenched by violence and chaos." Colors are blue, black, & white.

Here's how wikipedia describes it:

  • The overall scene is within a room where, at an open end on the left, a wide-eyed bull stands over a woman grieving over a dead child in her arms.

  • The centre is occupied by a horse falling in agony as it had just been run through by a spear or javelin. It is important to note that the large gaping wound in the horse's side is a major focus of the painting.

  • Two "hidden" images formed by the horse appear in Guernica (illustrated to the right):

  • A human skull overlays the horse's body.

  • A bull appears to gore the horse from underneath. The bull's head is formed mainly by the horse's entire front leg which has the knee on the ground. The leg's knee cap forms the head's nose. A horn appears within the horse's breast.

  • The bull's tail forms the image of a flame with smoke rising from it, seemingly appearing in a window created by the lighter shade of gray surrounding it.

  • Under the horse is a dead, apparently dismembered soldier; his hand on a severed arm still grasps a shattered sword from which a flower grows.

  • On the open palm of the dead soldier is a stigma, a symbol of martyrdom derived from the stigmata of Christ. Picasso was not religious, although he was brought up in the predominantly Catholic Spain, and this symbol is not to be interpreted as Christian identification.[citation needed]

  • A light bulb blazes in the shape of an evil eye over the suffering horse's head (the bare bulb of the torturer's cell.) Picasso's intended symbolism in regards to this object is related to the Spanish word for lightbulb; "bombilla", which makes an allusion to "bomb" and therefore signifies the destructing effect which technology can have on society.

  • To the upper right of the horse, a frightened female figure, who seems to be witnessing the scenes before her, appears to have floated into the room through a window. Her arm, also floating in, carries a flame-lit lamp. The lamp is positioned very close to the bulb, and is a symbol of hope, clashing with the lightbulb.

  • From the right, an awe-struck woman staggers towards the center below the floating female figure. She looks up blankly into the blazing light bulb.

  • Daggers that suggest screaming replace the tongues of the bull, grieving woman, and horse.

  • A bird, possibly a dove, stands on a shelf behind the bull in panic.

  • On the far right, a figure with arms raised in terror is entrapped by fire from above and below.

  • A dark wall with an open door defines the right end of the mural.
    Also according to Wikipedia, Picasso said about the mural: "The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death?. . . In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death." Spain was Picasso's native homeland. 

Photo is of a tiled wall in Gernika 

Interesting tidbit: When Colin Powell and John Negroponte gave press conferences at the UN in Feb. 2033, the painting was covered by a large curtain. The next day, it was claimed that the TV news crews requested it because they "complained that wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that the horse's hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers." Some diplomats told journalists, though, that the Bush Administration pressured UN officials to cover the tapestry rahter than have it in the background while folks argued for war on Iraq.

A Bit on Picasso's Creative Process
The art was commissioned before Guernica was bombed and Picasso was looking for inspiration. The claim is that in Paris Picasso was "stunned by the black and white photographs." Here's what he says about the representations he uses of the key figures--a woman with outstretched arms, a bull, and an "agonized" horse--all refined sketch after sketch before transferred to the canvas, which was also reworked several times:
"A painting is not thought out and settled in advance."
"While it is being done, it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it is finished, it goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it."

What I find interesting:
Murals in general and their role in community.
Picasso's images
Picasso's creative process

Forsythia Festival
Forsyth GA
Arts & crafts, 5K, live entertainment 
March 13-14, 2010


Mable House
Tues. March 16-May 11, 6:30 -8:15
$80 member, $105 non; supply fee $10

Mable House
Mon., March 22-May 3, 7 -9  (6 weeks)
$85 member, 105 non

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