Guerníca & The Civil War
the oldest town of the Basque provinces and the centre
of their cultural traditions, was almost completely
destroyed by the rebels in an air attack yesterday afternoon.
The bombing of the undefended town far behind the front
line took exactly three quarters of an hour. During
this time and without interruption a group of German
aircraft –Junker and Heinkel bombers as well as Heinkel
fighters– dropped bombs weighing up to 500 kilograms
on the town. At the same time low-flying fighter planes
fired machine-guns at the inhabitants who had taken
refuge in the fields. The whole of Guernica was in flames
in a very short time."
The Times, April 27, 1937
The Spanish government had asked Picasso to fulfil a mural for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition. He planned the topic "painter and studio", but when he heard about events in Guernica, he changed his original plans. After numerous sketches and studies, Picasso gave his own personal comprehensive view of a historical fact. His gigantic mural Guernica has remained part of the collective consciousness of the twentieth century, because Guernica has been serving as a forceful reminder of it. In 1981, after forty years of exile in New York, the picture found its way back to Spain. This was because Picasso had decreed that it should not become Spanish property until the end of fascism. In October 1937 Picasso painted the Weeping Woman as a kind of postscript to Guernica. In 1940 when Paris, where he lived, was occupied Picasso held an action: handed out photos of Guernica to German officers. When asked "Did you do this?" he replied, "No, you did".