Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was uncertain when approached to paint a mural for the Spanish pavilion for the 1937 Paris International Exposition, a World's Fair, intended to be a celebration of modern technology.2 He found his subject in late April 1937. German (Condor Legion) and Italian pilots had bombed and burned to the ground Guernica, the legendary capital of the Basque people, at the behest of the fascist rebel leader General Francisco Franco (1892-1975). Although Guernica, a defenseless small civilian farm community of 7000 residents in northern Spain, lacked military importance, it was the cradle of the Basque civilization and symbol of its freedom. That freedom was embodied in an ancient oak tree under which Spanish kings swore firm oaths that acknowledged Biscayan autonomy. Thus, the aim of the attack, the first on European soil that deliberately targeted and indiscriminately slaughtered civilians, was to demoralize and humiliate.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish. Guernica, 1937. Oil on canvas, 349 × 776 cm (137.4 × 305.5 in). Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid, Spain. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, New York.
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