All of the elements of the painting related to the Spanish Civil War, particularly the bombing of Guernica, of course. Picasso used the painting to illustrate a nation that was devouring itself.
You see, factionalism was so great during the war that it was difficult to clearly know who or for what one was fighting. The Spanish Republic, proclaimed five years prior to the outbreak of the war, had an inglorious existence. While the populace was mainly moderate, seeking reform and a progressive domestic policy, elements on both ends of the political spectrum were extreme, and used the Republic to further their own causes. The war has been illustrated as a conflict between the forces of liberlism versus a fascist uprising, but it was never so simple as this.
The Falange, Franco's ultimately victorious backing party, was of a definite Fascist character, but never formed a cohesive party in and of itself. Instead, it was an umbrella grouping, under which sheltered the conservative elements: Monarchists, Nationalists, the Army, etc. It was characterized in it popular support by those who were tired of the extremist acts of a government that appeared to favour Anarchism and Communism.
The Republic was honeycombed by Communists, Anarchists, and Separatists, and all of these elements were at a disadvantage in a traditionally conservative Catholic nation. The Government received much international sympathy, and volunteers, many of them celebrities of the day, flocked to its aid, but the few competent government ministers were outweighed by the many incompetent ones, and the effort to enlist domestic support for its cause failed. It is indicative of what the government was up against that the few popular public personalities generated by the Left were characterized traditionally, almost as Catholic saints, such as the fiery "La Pasionara."
The conflict was one of a nation tearing itself apart, and of others intervening to assist in the tearing. Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini all intervened, and as one Spanish writer said, "The tragedy of Spain was an entertainment for the world's stage."
I know this has been a lengthy discourse, but all of this is what Picasso tried to depict in his painting, with the backdrop horror of the bombing of Guernica as its theme. Picasso painted the national psychosis. Guernica the painting was political art and political fable.
It is almost beside the point that it is damn good art, too.
Jack B, goodbye, Yahoo!
2 years ago