Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Guernica" or Suffering of a Horse Indoors

One of the biggest icons of modern art is Picasso’s “Guernica”. It was commissioned by the Republican{Communist] government of Spain to commemorate the 1600 people killed by German and Italian bombers  that struck Basque village .Two powerful forces working together made the mural famous: western communism and proponents of modern art. Because the bloody dictators like Hitler, Franco and Stalin hated modern art it provided the chaotic, barbaric and infantile rubbish with nimbus of persecuted victims of tyranny. Fascists’ condemnation of modern art awarded it the elevated place in the gilded chariot of the liberal virtues, right next to personal freedom, freedom of expression and tolerance. From the late 30’s modern art has been placed under the protected wings of American Eagle and the flank of the British Lion.
In the secular hagiography of the West “Guernica” very quickly was sanctified and chosen by our cultural trainers as one of the “Treasures of the World”[PBS] on par with Gioconda or Egyptian Pyramids. But, just like in studying  surveillance photos of the worshipping crowd sharp eye will spot one or two reluctant participants, I should be counted as “Guernica-doubter”.
Because the outrage of the people over the massacre of civilians needed a symbolic object, “Guernica” was chosen to travel around the world as large banner of resistance against fascism. Serious scrutiny of its actual artistic success or failure has been made near impossible or irrelevant the very way that the image of Madonna of Guadalupe is not assessed as art. In just a few years after the horrific massacre of Guernica the American and British air raids far surpassed the fascists in the advancement of technology of killing civilians. Bombing of Pforzheim killed 18, 000, bombing of Dresden killed 25,000 and in Hamburg bombing  killed 42,600 civilians. If compassion were ever numerically proportional than the massacre in the Basque Viscaya would be overshadowed by the atrocities of World War Two. These unfathomable losses were made smaller in turn by Stalin and Mao, the greatest Father of Death the history ever had.
If “Guernica” is to be viewed as the symbolic icon of tragedy of war than it is right to examine the symbolic content of it. For reasons that are not understandable Picasso chose to make wounded or dying horse the center-piece of this huge composition.

 Perhaps I am not enough of a horse lover to be greatly moved by its obvious suffering, but it should be generally agreed the choice of that hippic trauma should not be made central in a painting commemorating 16 hundred people massacred by explosive and incendiary bombs. Glancing around the mural we see many more elements no doubt carrying some symbolic significance but very puzzling to those who would be looking for understandable images of air-raid victims. There is an image of a bull’s head as if advertizing strong brand of Rojo wine. There is a light bulb unaccountably lit up with powerful presence that does not seem relevant to the huge catastrophic horror of the event

 On both extremities, left and right there are two figures of women with upturned cartoonish signs of suffering on their faces .Before they could escape, the author caught them with his cubist set of geometric torture tools and turned them into wretched cartoons .Look, because they are so prominent, at the hands and feet of those figures. Straight from a cartoon, distorted to be funny-looking as if made of finger-potatoes- inappropriate in the theme that should call for expressiveness of suffering Katte Kolwitz could show him.

Now let’s step back and take the whole poster-like image in and examine the emotions it generates. What are they? Pity for the dead, sorrow for the innocent, fury at German cruelty? Not really…more like confusion, sense of dynamic chaos caused by having a dying and kicking horse inside. No wonder the women are screaming. The gathered elements are so drastically incoherent that the only thread that holds them firmly together is the forceful display of the Picasso Style. That vantage provides the proper key to the famed mural. Forget killed villagers; think Picasso Brand showcased here to serve his egotism, to serve promoters of modern art as defenders of freedom from tyranny and to the public never questioning pronouncements of cultural instructors.


  1. I loved this. I was just at a Picasso exhibit in San Francisco and had some of the same thoughts. While all the people around me were murmuring "beautiful, just beautiful", "violent" was all that came to my mind. He robs people and women in particular, women with whom he was said to have some amount of care for, of their humanity. Forget people and art, this was as you said, an ego trip for him.

  2. Why waste your time talking about something you hate so much? I am sure if you were to direct your critical engergy toward art you enjoyed it would benefit your writing, your readers and your own state of mind. My main problem with Guernica is it is so drab! But Picasso was never too great with colour. By the way if you are a proponent of 'representative' in art (whatever that means) you should realise that manner has as much ideological and political baggage as 'modernism' (whatever that means). So stop being so reactionary and provide the positive rather than the negative if you want to illuminate the world; otherwise just let the rest of us enjoy Picasso's lightbulb in peace.

  3. Sorry,Anonymous,you have not met the standard level of intellection to warrant my answer. By writing on art I do not address myself to hopeless cases.