Perhaps no twentieth-century painting has captured the cruel effects of war as powerfully as Picasso's Guernica. For the first time we can understand the entire history of Guernica both as an artistic work and a document of the conflicting forces that shook the world during the 1930s. This rich account not only traces the extraordinary creation of the painting but also establishes the context in which the bombing took place and the form in which the news of it reached Picasso.
As Herschel Chipp demonstrates in his skilled analysis, Picasso initially pursued an idea for this work that had nothing to do with the struggle in Spain. When republican emissaries asked him to paint a large mural for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition, they left the subject to him. He began by sketching out a subject that had long interested him: the artist and his model in the studio, working together and engaging in amorous play.
Only after the German Condor Legion bombed the Spanish town of Guernica did Picasso turn from this highly personal theme to one that evoked the anguish of those who had endured the attack. But even as he turned to the theme of suffering, Picasso sought characters for his painting in figures familiar in his art: the women in his life and the animals, horse and bull, that fought in the corrida .
Once the bombing had begun to work on his imagination, Picasso finished Guernica in only twenty-five days. As Professor Chipp guides us through the day-by-day development of Picasso's masterpiece, he vividly conveys Picasso's transformation of all his materials into a wrenching cry against the suffering of war.
Finally, the work describes the odyssey of Picasso's canvas from its first display in the Spanish pavilion to its eventual arrival in Spain. Javier Tusell G#65533;mez, the former director general of fine arts in Spain, contributes a chapter on the delicate negotiations that preceded the transfer of Guernica to Spain and the preparation at the Prado of a secure place to display the work.