Guernica (Pablo Picasso, 1937) The Painting Guernica is 3.5 meters high and 7.8 meters wide. 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. 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 center is occupied by a horse falling in agony as it had just been run through by a spear or javelin. 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 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 soldier; his hand on a severed arm still grasps a shattered sword from which a flower grows. A light bulb blazes in the shape of an evil eye over the horse's head. Picasso's intended symbolism in regards to this object is related to the Spanish word for lightbulb; "bombilla", which is similar to the word "bomba" for bomb in Spanish. To the upper right of the horse, a frightened female figure, who seems to be witnessing the scenes before her. Her arm carries a flame-lit lamp. The lamp is positioned very close to the bulb, and is a symbol of hope, clashing with the lightbulb. Daggers that suggest screaming replace the tongues of the bull, grieving woman, and horse. A dove, holding an olive branch is scribed on the wall behind the bull. Part of its body comprises a crack in the wall through which bright light (hope, or the outside world) can be seen. On the far right, a figure with arms raised in terror is entrapped by fire from above and below. The right hand of the man suggests the shape of an airplane. Symbolism Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. When pressed to explain the bull and horse in Guernica, Picasso said, “..this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse... If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are. 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, general consensus of historians is: 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 broken sword near the bottom of the painting symbolizes the defeat of the people at the hand of their tormentors. 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 selfassertion that liberates every human being and protects the individual against overwhelming forces such as political crime, war, and death.