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Guernica (painting)

Guernica (painting)

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Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica
Bombing of Guernica
The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War...

, Basque Country, by German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and Italian
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 warplanes
Military aircraft
A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat:...

 at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. The Spanish Republican
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 government commissioned Picasso to create a large mural
Mural
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.-History:Murals of...

 for the Spanish display at the Paris International Exposition
Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937)
The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held from May 25 to November 25, 1937 in Paris, France...

 at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.

Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war
Anti-war
An anti-war movement is a social movement, usually in opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause. The term can also refer to pacifism, which is the opposition to all use of military force during conflicts. Many...

 symbol, and an embodiment of peace. On completion Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed. This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 to the world's attention.

The painting


Guernica is grey, black and white, 3.5 metres (11 ft) tall and 7.8 metres (25.6 ft) wide, a mural-size canvas painted in oil. This painting can be seen in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. Picasso's purpose in painting it was to bring the world's attention to the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German bombers, who were supporting the Nationalist forces of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso completed the painting by mid-June 1937. Picasso exhibited his mural-size painting at the Spanish display at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937)
Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937)
The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held from May 25 to November 25, 1937 in Paris, France...

 (Paris International Exposition) in the 1937 World's Fair in Paris and then at other venues around the world. The San Francisco Museum of Art (later SFMOMA) gave the work its first public, free appearance in the United States from 27 August – 19 September. The Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 in New York City then mounted an important Picasso exhibition on 15 November 1939 that remained on view until 7 January 1940, entitled: Picasso: 40 Years of His Art, that was organized by Alfred H. Barr (1902–1981), in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design, located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. It is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either...

. The exhibition contained 344 works, including Guernica and its studies.

Guernica shows suffering people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos.
  • 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:
    • 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
    Stigmata
    Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, such as the hands and feet...

     of Christ.
  • 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 destructive 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.

Symbolism and interpretations


Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two dominant elements: the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso's career."

When pressed to explain them in Guernica, Picasso said,
In "The Dream and Lie of Franco
The Dream and Lie of Franco
The Dream and Lie of Franco is a series of fourteen or eighteen etchings, and accompanying prose poem, by Pablo Picasso produced in early 1937....

," a series of narrative sketches also created for the World's Fair, Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 is depicted as a monster that first devours his own horse and later does battle with an angry bull. Work on these illustrations began before the bombing of Guernica, and four additional panels were added, three of which relate directly to the Guernica mural.

Picasso said as he worked on 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.

However, according to scholar Beverly Ray the following list of interpretations reflects the general consensus of historians:
  • The shape and posture of the bodies express protest.
  • Picasso uses black, white, and grey paint to set a somber mood and express pain and chaos.
  • Flaming buildings and crumbling walls not only express the destruction of Guernica, but reflect the destructive power of civil war.
  • The newspaper print used in the painting reflects how Picasso learned of the massacre.
  • The light bulb in the painting represents the sun.
  • The broken sword near the bottom of the painting symbolizes the defeat of the people at the hand of their tormentors. (Berger 1980; Chipp 1988)


In drawing attention to a number of preliminary studies, the so called primary project, that show an atelier installation incorporating the central triangular shape which reappears in the final version of Guernica, Becht-Jördens and Wehmeier interpret the painting as a self-referential composition in the tradition of atelier paintings such as "Las Meninas
Las Meninas
Las Meninas is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The work's complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures...

" by Diego Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

. In his chef d'oevre, Picasso seems to be trying to define his role and his power as an artist in the face of political power and violence. But far from being a mere political painting, Guernica should be seen as Picasso’s comment on what art can actually contribute towards the self-assertion that liberates every human being and protects the individual against overwhelming forces such as political crime, war, and death.

Historical context


Guernica is a town in the province of Biscay
Biscay
Biscay is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lord of Biscay. Its capital city is Bilbao...

 in Basque Country. During the Spanish Civil War, it was regarded as the northern bastion of the Republican resistance movement and the epicenter of Basque culture, adding to its significance as a target.

The Republican forces were made up of assorted factions (Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, to name a few) with wildly differing approaches to government and eventual aims, but a common opposition to the Nationalists. The Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, were also factionalized but to a lesser extent. They sought a return to the golden days of Spain, based on law, order, and traditional Catholic family values.

At about 16:30 on Monday, 26 April 1937, warplanes of the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Condor Legion
Condor Legion
The Condor Legion was a unit composed of volunteers from the German Air Force and from the German Army which served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to March 1939. The Condor Legion developed methods of terror bombing which were used widely in the Second World War...

, commanded by Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen
Wolfram von Richthofen
Dr.-Ing. Wolfram Freiherr von RichthofenIn German a Doctorate in engineering is abbreviated as Dr.-Ing. . was a German Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War...

, bombed Guernica for about two hours. Germany, at this time led by Hitler, had lent material support to the Nationalists and were using the war as an opportunity to test out new weapons and tactics. Later, intense aerial bombardment became a crucial preliminary step in the Blitzkrieg tactic
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

.

In his journal for 30 April 1937, von Richthofen wrote:
This account contains striking discrepancies from other accounts that state that the town's inhabitants were in fact congregated in the center of town, as it was market day, and when the bombardment commenced, were unable to escape the inferno because the roads leading out of the center of the town were full of debris and the bridges leading out of town had been destroyed.

Guernica's location was at a major crossroads 10 kilometers from the front lines and between the front lines and Bilbao, the capital of Bizkaia. Any Republican retreat towards Bilbao and any Nationalist advance towards Bilbao had to pass through Guernica. "During 25 April, many of the demoralized (Republican) troops from Marquina fell back on Guernica, which lay 10 kilometers behind the lines." Wolfram von Richthofen's war diary entry for 26 April 1937 states, "K/88 [the Condor Legion bomber force] was targeted at Guernica in order to halt and disrupt the Red withdrawal which has to pass through here." The following day, Richthofen wrote in his war diary, "Guernica burning." The Republican retreat towards Bilbao did pass through Guernica, before and after the bombing, and, as Beevor points out, "At Guernica the communist Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

 Battalion under Major Cristobal held back the nationalists for a time".

Guernica was a quiet village. The nearest military target of any consequence was a factory on the outskirts of the town, which manufactured various war products. The factory went through the attack unscathed. Thus, the motivation of the bombing was clearly one of intimidation. Furthermore, a majority of the town's men were away as they were fighting on behalf of the Republicans. Thus, the town at the time of the bombing was populated mostly by women and children.

These demographics are reflected in the painting because, as Rudolf Arnheim writes, for Picasso: "The women and children make Guernica the image of innocent, defenseless humanity victimized. Also, women and children have often been presented by Picasso as the very perfection of mankind. An assault on women and children is, in Picasso's view, directed at the core of mankind." Clearly, the Nationalists sought to demoralize the Republicans and the civilian population as a whole by demonstrating their military might on a town that stood for traditional Basque culture and innocent civilians.

After the bombing, it was through the work of the Basque and Republican sympathizer and The Times journalist George Steer
George Steer
George Lowther Steer was a South African-born British journalist, author and war correspondent who reported on wars preceding World War II, especially the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the Spanish Civil War...

 that propelled this event onto the international scene and brought it to Pablo Picasso's attention. Steer, who rushed to town, compiled his observations into an article that was published on 28 April in both The Times and The New York Times, and which on the 29th, appeared in L'Humanité
L'Humanité
L'Humanité , formerly the daily newspaper linked to the French Communist Party , was founded in 1904 by Jean Jaurès, a leader of the French Section of the Workers' International...

, a French Communist daily. Steer wrote:
It was through this article that Picasso was made aware of what had gone on in his country of origin. At the time, he was working on a mural for the Paris Exhibition
Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937)
The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held from May 25 to November 25, 1937 in Paris, France...

 to be held in the summer of 1937, commissioned by the Spanish Republican government. He deserted his original idea and on 1 May 1937, began on Guernica. This captivated his imagination unlike his previous idea, on which he had been working somewhat dispassionately, for a couple of months. It is interesting to note, however, that at its unveiling at the Paris Exhibition that summer, it garnered little attention. It would later attain its power as such a potent symbol of the destruction of war on innocent lives.

1937 Paris International Exhibition


Guernica was initially exhibited in July 1937 at the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition
Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937)
The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held from May 25 to November 25, 1937 in Paris, France...

. The Pavilion, which was financed by the Spanish Republican government at the time of civil war, was built to exhibit the Spanish government's struggle for existence contrary to the Exposition's technology theme. The Pavilion's entrance presented an enormous photographic mural of Republican soldiers accompanied by the slogan:
We are fighting for the essential unity of Spain.
We are fighting for the integrity of Spanish soil.
We are fighting for the independence of our country and for
the right of the Spanish people to determine their own destiny.


The display of Guernica was accompanied by a poem by Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard, born Eugène Émile Paul Grindel , was a French poet who was one of the founders of the surrealist movement.-Biography:...

, and the pavilion displayed works by Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Joan Miró i Ferrà was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona.Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride...

 and Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder was an American sculptor and artist most famous for inventing mobile sculptures. In addition to mobile and stable sculpture, Alexander Calder also created paintings, lithographs, toys, tapestry, jewelry and household objects.-Childhood:Alexander "Sandy" Calder was born in Lawnton,...

, both of whom were sympathetic to the Republican cause.

Post-exhibition experiences


After the Paris Exhibition, the painting went on tour, first to the Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n capitals, then to London, where it arrived on 30 September 1938, the same day the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 was signed by the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and Germany. The London exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery included preparatory studies and was organized by Roland Penrose
Roland Penrose
Sir Roland Algernon Penrose CBE was an English artist, historian and poet. He was a major promoter and collector of modern art and an associate of the surrealists in the United Kingdom.- Biography :...

 with Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 addressing a public meeting. It then returned briefly to France; after the victory of Francisco Franco in Spain, the painting was sent to the United States to raise funds and support for Spanish refugees. At Picasso's request the safekeeping of the piece was entrusted to the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 (MoMA) in New York City. It formed the centerpiece of a Picasso retrospective at MoMA which opened six weeks after the Nazi invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

.

Between 1939 and 1952, the painting traveled extensively in the United States; between 1953 and 1956 it was shown in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, at the first-ever Picasso retrospective in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

, Italy, and then in numerous other major European cities, before returning to MoMA for a retrospective celebrating Picasso's seventy-fifth birthday. It then went on to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 and Philadelphia. By this time, concern for the state of the painting resulted in a decision to keep it in one place: a room on MoMA's third floor, where it was accompanied by several of Picasso's preliminary studies and some of Dora Maar's photos. The studies and photos were often loaned for other exhibitions, but until 1981, Guernica itself remained at MoMA.

While living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, Picasso suffered harassment from the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. One officer allegedly asked him, upon seeing a photo of Guernica in his apartment, "Did you do that?" Picasso responded, "No, you did."

During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the room containing the painting became the site of occasional anti-war vigils. These were usually peaceful and uneventful, but on 28 February 1974, Tony Shafrazi
Tony Shafrazi
Tony Shafrazi is the owner of the Shafrazi Art Gallery in New York, who deals artwork by artists such as Francis Bacon, Keith Haring, and David LaChapelle....

 – ostensibly protesting Second Lieutenant William Calley
William Calley
William Laws Calley is a convicted American war criminal and a former U.S. Army officer found guilty of murder for his role in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War.-Early life:...

's petition for habeas corpus following his indictment and sentencing for the murder of a 109 Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre
My Lai Massacre
The My Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of 347–504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children , and...

 – defaced the painting with red spray paint, painting the words "KILL LIES ALL"; the paint was removed with relative ease from the varnished surface.

As early as 1968, Franco had expressed an interest in having Guernica return to Spain. However, Picasso refused to allow this until the Spanish people again enjoyed a republic. He later added other conditions, such as the restoration of "public liberties and democratic institutions". Picasso died in 1973. Franco, ten years Picasso's junior, died two years later, in 1975. After Franco's death, Spain was transformed into a democratic constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

, ratified by a new constitution
Spanish Constitution of 1978
-Structure of the State:The Constitution recognizes the existence of nationalities and regions . Preliminary Title As a result, Spain is now composed entirely of 17 Autonomous Communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy, to the extent that, even though the Constitution...

 in 1978. However, MoMA was reluctant to give up one of their greatest treasures and argued that a monarchy did not represent the republic that had been stipulated in Picasso's will as a condition for the painting's return. Under great pressure from a number of observers, MoMA finally ceded the painting to Spain in 1981.
The Spanish historian Javier Tusell was one of the negotiators.

During the 1970s, it was a symbol for Spaniards of both the end of the Franco regime and of Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Basque Country in the wider sense...

.
The Basque left
Basque National Liberation Movement
The Basque National Liberation Movement is an umbrella term that comprises all social, political and armed organizations orbiting around the ideas of the illegal armed organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna , proscribed internationally as a terrorist organisation.The wide variety of organizations and...

 has repeatedly used imagery from the picture.
In 1992 the painting was moved from the Museo del Prado
Museo del Prado
The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of...

 to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is the official name of Spain's national museum of 20th century art . The museum was officially inaugurated on September 10, 1992 and is named for Queen Sofia of Spain...

, both in Madrid, along with about two dozen preparatory works. This action was controversial in Spain, since Picasso's will stated that the painting should be displayed at the Prado.
However, the move was part of a transfer of all of the Prado's collections of art after the early 19th century to other nearby buildings in the city for reasons of space; the Reina Sofía, which houses the capital's national collection of 20th century art, was the natural place to move it to. A special gallery was built at the Reina Sofía to display Picasso's masterpiece to best advantage.

When first displayed in Spain, the painting was placed at El Casón del Buen Retiro, an annex to the Prado that housed early nineteenth century paintings but had a large enough wall.
It was kept behind bullet-proof glass and guarded with machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s. However, since that time there has never been any attempted vandalism or other security threat to the painting. In its present gallery, the painting has roughly the same protection as any other work at the Reina Sofía.

Basque nationalists
Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Basque Country in the wider sense...

 have advocated that the picture should be brought to the Basque country, especially after the building of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. Officials at the Reina Sofía claim that the huge canvas is now thought to be too fragile to move. Even the staff of the Guggenheim do not see a permanent transfer of the painting as possible, although the Basque government continues to support the possibility of a temporary exhibition in Bilbao
Bilbao
Bilbao ) is a Spanish municipality, capital of the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. With a population of 353,187 , it is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain...

.

Guernica at the United Nations


A tapestry
Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

 copy of Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the UN building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 room. Commissioned in 1955 by Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was the 41st Vice President of the United States , serving under President Gerald Ford, and the 49th Governor of New York , as well as serving the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations in a variety of positions...

, and placed on loan to the United Nations by the Rockefeller estate in 1985, the tapestry is less monochromatic than the original, and uses several shades of brown. On 5 February 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work, so that it would not be visible in the background when Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 and John Negroponte
John Negroponte
John Dimitri Negroponte is an American diplomat. He is currently a research fellow and lecturer in international affairs at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs...

 gave press conferences at the United Nations. On the following day, it was claimed that the curtain was placed there at the request of television news crews, who had complained that the wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that a horse's hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers. Some diplomats, however, in talks with journalists claimed that the Bush Administration pressured UN officials to cover the tapestry, rather than have it in the background while Powell or other U.S. diplomats argued for war on Iraq.

According to The Washington Times in 2003, the sequence was as follows:
  • 1985: The tapestry copy of Guernica is hung at the U.N. Security Council, paid for by the estate of Nelson Rockefeller
    Nelson Rockefeller
    Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was the 41st Vice President of the United States , serving under President Gerald Ford, and the 49th Governor of New York , as well as serving the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations in a variety of positions...

  • 2003, Monday 27 January: Guernica found by journalists, covered with a baby-blue banner and a UN-logo. "It's only temporary. We're only doing this until the cameras leave," said UN-spokesperson Abdellatif Kabbaj. He clarified: "We had a problem with, you know, the horse" (that is, in the background of a camera-shoot).
  • The drapes were installed Monday, 27 January and Wednesday, 29 January only. Other days of the week, including Tuesday in between, there was no drape. On these other days the UN-Security Council's agenda included Afghanistan, Western Sahara and Lebanon.


On 17 March 2009, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Marie Okabe announced that the Guernica tapestry had been moved to a gallery in London in advance of extensive renovations at UN Headquarters. The Guernica tapestry is the showcase piece for the grand reopening of the Whitechapel Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
The Whitechapel Gallery is a public art gallery on the north side of Whitechapel High Street, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, it was founded in 1901 as one of the first publicly-funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London, and it has a long...

. It is located in the 'Guernica room' which was originally part of the old Whitechapel Library.

Sources


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  • Becraft, Melvin E. Picasso's Guernica – Images within Images 3rd Edition PDF download
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    Antony Beevor
    Antony James Beevor, FRSL is a British historian, educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He studied under the famous military historian John Keegan. Beevor is a former officer with the 11th Hussars who served in England and Germany for five years before resigning his commission...

    . (2006) The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297848325
  • Blunt, Anthony
    Anthony Blunt
    Anthony Frederick Blunt , was a British art historian who was exposed as a Soviet spy late in his life.Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Surveyor of the King's Pictures and London...

    . (1969) Picasso's Guernica. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195001354
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  • Preston, Paul
    Paul Preston
    Paul Preston CBE is a British historian and Hispanist, specialized in Spanish history, in particular the Spanish Civil War, which he has studied for more than 30 years....

    . (2007) "George Steer and Guernica." History Today 57 (2007): 12–19.
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    Museum of Modern Art
    The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

    . ISBN 0-87070-519-9
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External links