Guernica: Investigating the Impact

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In times of crisis and public upheaval, artistic representations emerge as both a way of remembering an event historically and as a means to interpret and overcome the past. This response is universal, and in the case of Picasso’s Guernica, the emotional, social, and political impact it had and continues to have on people perpetuates its complex universality. Guernica became a symbol of pride to the Republican supporters and a force to be reckoned with for General Franco and the Nationalists. The painting’s overwhelming response from both sides aided in the call for European and international awareness of the Spanish Civil War and reflected a horrified outrage towards immoral bloodshed - an emotion so familiar throughout the world that it became an icon for the futility of war in general. The emphasized individual and shared sentiments about Guernica were mirrored internationally and swayed the viewpoints of subsequent generations, including my own. While Guernica reflects a point in history its global impact unites people in a shared understanding of war and violence that has surpassed the event itself.

The social and political significance of the Spanish Civil War has been long overshadowed by World War II (WWII), which began shortly thereafter. I learned very little about this event during secondary education, so obviously this perspective does not represent the education and opinions of the people of Spain, Europe, and elsewhere. Keeping this in mind, my understanding of Guernica is only a worthy representation of the Spanish Civil War when the history behind it is incorporated. Beginning in 1936, the conservative rebels (Nationalists) led by four generals, including General Francisco Franco, fought against the newly elected ...

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... be destroyed, like Guernica was, in order to weaken their opponents and maintain control. For those who opposed Franco, it was a plea for assistance and the beginning of a long struggle against Fascism that would continue until Franco’s death in 1975.

Those caught in between the two forces could relate to the struggles of the figures as they weighed the pros and cons of each side, debated the relationship between religious and political affiliations, and were approached and questioned on a daily basis about the severity of the situation. Other European countries were addressing similar issues at the time, predominantly Fascism, Communism, and Nazism, which made concentrating on the needs of the Spanish more difficult, yet it brought the different cultures together. The same goes for the opposing side – when there is a common enemy, differences can be set aside.

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