Picasso's Sketches for Guernica
The painting depicts people, animals, and buildings wrenched by the violence and chaos of the carpet-bombing, as well as the outline of a skull formed by various objects. This large canvas embodies for many the inhumanity, brutality and hopelessness of war, and the cruelty of bombing civilians. The choice to paint in black and white without color contrasts the screaming intensity of the scene depicted.
More than anything Picasso’s painting was at that time not accepted by the Extreme Right, in particular Franco who had become the dictator in Spain, nor by the Communists and Orthodox Left. Aesthetical criteria do play a role in the judgement of a painting this size and with such a message about human pain. Picasso did not fit into the usual categories of glorification of war and heroship nor did he side in his painting with what were demands by Communist regimes desiring Socialist Realism to depict workers struggling against Fascist and Capitalist power. Rather Picasso expressed something beyond the imagination in anticipation of things to come. In particular the light bulb at the top centre can be viewed as something simple but frightening: a prisoner being kept awake all night long by a naked light bulb. Indeed it can be interpreted as the first sign of torture and violation of human rights in the modern age. The art of Cubism depicts entanglement but also in reflection of Ancient Greece with its centaurs as half men, half horses something more mechanical but cut off from the rest of life. All things appear, therefore, more disjointed and dislocated than juxtaposed.
Sketches on display in the atelier where Picasso painted guernica, they are an indication of how much preparatory work, research, revising and inventing went into the final Guernica painting.