Chicapod

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Symbolism in Guernica September 24, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 10:27 pm

Artist Pablo Picasso
Year 1937
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 349 cm × 776 cm (137.4 in × 305.5 in)
Location Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

The usage of black, grey and white symbolises life, in between and death respectively. White is life, black is death, and the rest, which is the present, is grey. All the figures are white, which means that there is life in them, and are enveloped in darkness, denoted by black, which shows that they are surrounded by death. To interpret this, the living is surviving in an environment full of death and sorrow during the war, making Picasso’s emotional message of anti-war sentiment fairly strong.

Next, I shall analyse the various symbols of the painting.

The light bulb at the top middle area of the canvas symbolises the man-made eternal sun. It illuminates the rest of the figures, bringing the torture and the victims of war to light, exposing them to the viewers’ eyes. This can show that the war is an act of brutal self-destruction, being caused by Man himself, and bringing misery unto himself.  The issues of war are reagarding the difference in Man bring more harm than benefit to mankind.

Upon close scrutiny, one observes a small, emaciated flower in the tight grasp of a broken limb holding a chipped sword. This symbol of the flower actually shows a hint of optimistic hope amongst all the suffering and pain. This hope, however small, lies in the hands of Man, and it is his choice whether to let the hope grow, or to crush and destroy it. Misery is brought unto himself but hope can also be reignited through the process of peace and harmony. Picasso is trying to convey the message of cooperation with one another, and learning to accept each other’s flaws and differences in a positive way. The right lies in our hands.

Other symbols such as the horse and the bull are mythological figures; they represent the Loyalists and Nationalists fighting against each other in the Spanish Civil War. Since both figures are in a state of extreme pain and suffering, both are not beefiting from the pointless war. The war is a fatuous act of unnecessary violence, the horror and injustice caused do not aid any political party in any way. It only adds on to the physical and mental torture to the countrymen, and political members alike.

Thus, in conclusion, Guernica is a painting with numerous symbols to depict strong anti-war sentiments.

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