On this page are different response to Picasso’s Guernica and the Spanish Civil War. Guernica today and in the past represents the destruction of human life and the terrors of war. As UN delegate Laurie Brereton states Guernica “still continues to mirror the horror of war and throw a harsh spotlight on our propensity for cruelty. Subtly, over the years, Guernica has reinvented itself and change from being a painting born out of war to one that speaks of reconciliation and the hope of endearing world peace.” (Hensbergen 3)
Senator John McCain
“We have not lacked for rhetoric, but we have proven woefully inadequate at backing up our words with resolute action… Mr President, prominently displayed in the United Nations building in New York is Picasso’s famous and haunting Guernica. That painting symbolized for the artist the carnage, the human suffering on an enormous scale, that resulted from the Spanish Civil War as prelude to the Second World War. Perhaps it is too abstract for those countries in the United Nation that oppose the use of force to stop the atrocities that have come to symbolize the former Yugoslavia, or that believe the war in Kosovo is the internal business of Serbia.” (6)
“A new kind of war.” (8)
“Picasso was always possessed by the necessity of emptying himself, of emptying himself completely, of always emptying himself, he is so full of it that all his experience is the repetition of a complete emptying, he must empty himself, he can never empty himself of being Spanish, but ha can empty himself of what he has created. So every one says that he changes but really it is not that, he empties himself and the moment he has completed emptying himself he must recommence emptying himself, he fills himself up again so quickly.” (16)
“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he’s a poet, or even, if he’s a boxer, just his muscle? On the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly alive to heart-rending, fiery or happy events to which he responds in every way. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people and by virtue of an ivory indifference to detach yourself from the life which they so copiously bring you? NO, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It’s an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.” (24)
“It would be most interesting to preserve photographically not the stages but the metamorphoses of a painting. Possibly one would thus be able to discover the path followed by the brain to materialize a dream. But there is something very strange and that is to observe that a painting does not basically change, that the first vision remains almost intact, despite appearances.” (45)
“Dark, confused, uncertain images have a greater power on the fancy to form the grander passions than those which are clear and determinate.” (54)
“It seems almost impossible in the struggle that we are conducting, that the Spanish Republic has been able to construct this building. There is in t, as in everything of ours, something of a miracle. I am not speaking of the construction itself, the result of the work of our architects Lacasa and Sert, and of yourselves. Manhas invented work and it in turn has shaped us. The rest is paralysis, putrefaction, and death.
At the entrance, on the right Picasso’s painting leaps into view. It will be spoken of for a long time. Picasso has represented here the tragedy of Guernica. It is possible that this art be accused of being too abstract or difficult for a pavilion like ours which seeks to be above all, and before everything else, popular manifestation. This is not the moment to justify ourselves, but I am certain that with a little good will, everybody will perceive the rage, the desperation, and the terrible protest that this canvas signifies…To those who protest saying that things are not thus, one must answer asking if they do not have two eyes to see the terrible reality of Spain. If the picture by Picasso has any defect it is that it is too real, too terribly true, atrociously true.” (71)
Ozenfant’s Expo diary entry, in the twelfth issue of Cahiers d’Art
“I am writing at a little table in the Spanish pavilion’s Cataln tavern. Painful. A show of Spanish suffering… Guernica makes one feel the terrible drama of a great people abandoned to mediaeval tyrants, and makes one think about it.” (74)
“The painting is disillusioning. Fundamentally it is the same as Picasso’s bull fight scenes. It is not an act of public mourning, but the expression of a private brain-storm which gives no evidence that Picasso has realized the political significance of Guernica.” (76)
“The Spanish like violence, cruelty, they like blood, like to see blood flow, stream - the blood of horses, the blood of bulls, the blood of men. Whether it’s the ‘Whites’ or the ‘Reds’, whether they’re flaying priests or communists, there’s always the same pleasure in seeing blood flow. In that respect, they’re unbeatable.” (76)
“In Guernica, expressed in the most striking manner, is a world of despair, where death is everywhere; everywhere is a crime, chaos, and desolation; disaster more violent than lightning , flood, and hurricane, for everything there is hostile, uncontrollable, beyond understanding, whence rise the heart-rending cries of beings dying because of men’s cruelty. From Picasso’s paintbrush explode phantoms of distress, anguish, terror, insurmountable pain, massacres, and finally peace found in death.” (79)
Hensbergen, Gijs van. Guernica. New York : Blomsbury Publishing, 2004.