Guernica, One of the Greatest Works of Modern Art?

Pablo Picasso, 1937, Guernica, protest against...

Pablo Picasso, 1937, Guernica, protest against Fascism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guernica was a sleepy Basque village in northern Spain that was unknown to much of the wider world… until April 27, 1937 when it was the target of the world’s first saturation-bombing raid.  General Francisco Franco allowed his fascist ally Hitler to test his new air force’s prowess.   At the time, military aviation was in its infancy and the world hadn’t yet seen massive aerial bombings.  The raid destroyed the town, causing destruction that previously had been unimaginable.

Ruins of Guernica (1937). The Spanish civil wa...

Ruins of Guernica (1937). The Spanish civil war claimed the lives of over half-a-million people. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, Pablo Picasso was living in Paris.  When he read the news reports of Guernica, he quit working on other projects and set to work.   He worked on it feverishly and within a few weeks, he created a large mural measuring 87.17 meters (286 square feet).  When we were in Paris, we were surprised to walk out our door and see this plaque nearby.  It says “Pablo Picasso lived in this building from 1936 to 1955. It is in this workshop that he painted ‘Guernica’ in 1937.  It is here also that Balzac centered the action of his novel ‘Le Chef-d’œuvre Inconnu‘.”.

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Picasso exhibited it at the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. It turned out to be a masterpiece and is generally regarded as Picasso’s greatest work.   It combines various styles (Cubism, Surrealism and abstraction) to depict and comment on the horrors of war.  It wasn’t an immediate smash.  But over time, people gained an appreciation of its complex symbolism.  People reacted to the humanity depicted and the devastating effects of war on civilians.  It became a rallying-cry-in-paint to the anti-fascist cause.  When we were in Madrid, we made a special trip to the Reina Sofia Museum to see it.  It is incredibly moving and its use of symbolism is astonishing.  For a good analysis/explanation of the painting, click here or here.

Pablo Picasso pintando el Guernica (París, 1937)

Pablo Picasso pintando el Guernica (París, 1937) (Photo credit: Recuerdos de Pandora)

Happy Birthday Picasso!

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Holy Toledo!

We took a daytrip from Madrid to Toledo*.  I have always wanted to see it.  Now, I want to go back.
Holy Toledo it was beautiful.  It is is well-preserved, filled with history and contains a rare mix of religious influences.
See what I mean…gorgeous.
When you read that something is “well-preserved” in a guidebook, translate that to  “a confusing maze of streets whose difficulty in navigating has only increased over the past few hundred years”.  We had a great time getting lost.  It took us longer than normal to get around because I was constantly taking pictures.
Still love dogs
Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in Toledo; both are in La Mancha.  Swords have been manufactured there since Roman times and there were swords everywhere.  He wanted one, but I didn’t think we could get through security with it.
The large steeple in the middle of the town is the cathedral.  It is enormous and amazing with an incredible collection of art.  The church is rolling in it.  He was more impressed by this by St. Peter’s in Rome.
Each of the seats has carvings like the one shown below.  They commerate Christian victories over the Muslims with each seat showing a different town.
I’ve been to more than a few churches traveling in my day, but I’ve never seen a skylight.  This skylight behind the altar adds more light and allows sunbeams to fall on the altar during mass.  The red hat belonged to a cardinal.  When they die, their hat is hung from a spot of their choosing in the cathedral.  They stay there until they disintegrate.  If you look thought the pictures from the cathedral, you can spy another one or two.
Franco’s sword.  He got a lot of support from the church.
Believe it or not, this puppy holds communion bread.  I guess that helps you to put the size of the cathedral into perspective.  Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed in its most impressive part, a massive art collection.
Although I don’t have good pictures, one of the most interesting things about Toledo is its history of religious tolerance.  In Toledo’s heyday, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side in the city.  That is until they were expelled from Spain in 1502 and 1492 respectively.  Oh yeah, and this little thing called The Inquisition came along.
*We have been to Toledo, Ohio many times.