Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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12 / Conflict and Resistance

Artist / Origin Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)
Region: Europe
Date 1937
Material Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 137 ½ in. (349.3 cm.), W: 305 ¾ in. (776.6 cm.)
Location Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
Credit © Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, NY. Courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Photo by Erich Lessing

expert perspective

John ElderfieldChief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York


» Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)

expert perspective

John Elderfield John Elderfield Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Guernica the painting was public from the get go. It was toured internationally. It was an explicitly political painting. It ended its tour at MoMA where it remained for many years. And, indeed, its period at MoMA was itself political because Picasso’s instruction was that it would stay there until democracy was returned to Spain. And then the picture could go back, leaving aside the slightly comedic element of a New York museum having to decide when Spain is sufficiently democratic to get the painting.

It was initially shown in the Prado before it went to the Reina Sofía. When it was first shown it was shown behind bulletproof glass because of concerns of its safety at the time when the Basque Separatist cause was high in Spain. So that even then it was perceived as a political picture and inseparable from a notion of independence within Spain. And in this case, the Basques, wanting their own independence from Spain, were ready to damage the picture.” 


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