Artist: Pablo Picasso

Posted on by Ben Hodson

“Guernica” Pablo Picasso 1937 Oil on Canvas

My research of other historical and contemporary artists has centered on specific individuals who attempted to use visual art to bring about positive change.  When looking into visual artists who had a big influence on society, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Pablo Picasso.  Specifically in his painting “Guernica” the artist intended to draw attention to the atrocities of war, in particular the aerial bombardment of the Spanish village of Guernica.   

The Spanish rulers commissioned Picasso to create a large mural for the Paris International exposition, as part of the world fair in Paris 1937.  He had already begun work on this commission when the bombing took place.  He scrapped his original work and began to create this provocative monochromatic image.  It was heralded as the painting which allowed the world to awaken to the horrible events of the Spanish civil war.  As an anti-war symbol it was particularly successful in catching the public’s attention.  This was to do with the new style of aerial bombardment that the German Luftwaffe squadron employed.  The world was becoming aware of the inevitable breakout of European war and this was the first time the devastating potential of this new style of warfare was seen. 

Picasso never fully explained the work or associated symbolism.  There are a number of conflicting theories which surround the work and what it has contributed to change in world history.  It is therefore hard to determine or quantify exactly what impact the work has had.    It is clear that this is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world and it appears to have galvinised public opinion against the ideologies of war, both past and present.