Why Did Pablo Picasso Paint “Guernica”?

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Pablo Picasso painted one of his most celebrated and politically powerful pieces “Guernica” in response to the Nazi bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in April 1937. Aiding insurgents in the Spanish Civil War, German planes bombed and destroyed the town, indiscriminately killing women and children. The destruction of Guernica became a symbol of the lost liberties of the Basque people.

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish native. During the bombing of Guernica in 1937, Picasso was working on a commissioned mural for the Paris Exhibition scheduled to begin the following summer. Within days after hearing about the Guernica bombing, he abandoned his first idea for the mural project and began working on “Guernica” instead. When his painting was unveiled at the Paris Exhibition later that summer, it did not garner much attention. It was not until later that Picasso’s “Guernica” became a symbol of the devastating effects of war.

Following the Paris Exhibition, “Guernica” traveled around the world on a brief tour, gathering acclaim and bringing the Spanish Civil War to the attention of the world. Over time, “Guernica” became an anti-war symbol, an embodiment of peace and a reminder of the brutality, particularly upon innocent civilians, and the tragically destructive nature of war.