Waarom Is Het Schilderij ‘Guernica’ Van Picasso Zo Schokkend?

In 1937 bombardeerden fascistische troepen, in een van de ergste gevallen met burgerslachtoffers van de Spaanse burgeroorlog, het dorp Guernica in Noord-Spanje. Voor Pablo Picasso leidde de tragedie tot een waanzinnige periode van werk waarin hij een massale anti-oorlogsmuurschildering produceerde, getiteld ‘Guernica’. Hoe kunnen we dit overweldigende beeld begrijpen en wat maakt het tot een meesterwerk van anti-oorlogskunst? Iseult Gillespie onderzoekt het.

On April 26th, 1937, Fascist forces bombed the Basque village of Guernica in Northern Spain. It was one of the worst civilian casualties of the Spanish Civil War, waged between the democratic republic and General Franco’s fascist contingent.

For Pablo Picasso, the tragedy sparked a frenzied period of work in which he produced a massive anti-war mural, aptly titled "Guernica." The painting is a powerful work of historical documentation and political protest. But while Picasso’s artistic motivations are clear, the symbolism of the painting can be as confusing and chaotic as war itself. How can we make sense of this overwhelming image, and what exactly makes it a masterpiece of anti-war art?

The painting’s monumental canvas is disorienting from the start, rendered in the abstracted Cubist style Picasso pioneered. Cubism deliberately emphasized the two-dimensionality of the canvas by flattening the objects being painted. This afforded viewers multiple and often impossible perspectives on the same object; a technique considered shocking even in Picasso’s domestic scenes.

But in this context, the style offers a profoundly overwhelming view of violence, destruction, and casualties. Multiple perspectives only compound the horror on display– sending the eyes hurtling around the frame in a futile hunt for peace.

On the far left, a woman holding her dead child releases a scream; her eyes sliding down her face in the shape of tears and her head bending back unnaturally to echo her baby’s. There is the statue of a soldier present below, but he is unable to defend the woman and child. Instead his broken body lies in pieces, his arm clutching a splintered sword in a signal of utmost defeat.

The tip of his sword meets a woman’s foot as she attempts to flee the devastation. But her other leg appears rooted to the spot, locked in the corner of the canvas even as she stretches to move it. Another victim appears behind this slouching figure. Falling helplessly as flames lick around her, she too is caught in her own hopeless scene.

Each of these figures bordering the painting are horribly trapped, giving the work an acute sense of claustrophobia. And where you might expect the canvas’ massive size to counteract this feeling, its scale only highlights the nearly life-sized atrocities on display.

Some possible relief comes from a lamp held tightly by a ghostly woman reaching out her window. But is her lantern’s hopeful glow truly lighting the scene? Or is it the jagged lightbulb– thought to represent the technologies of modern warfare– which illuminates her view of the chaos below?

From the coffin-like confines of her window, her arm guides the viewer back into the fray, to perhaps the most controversial symbols of all– two ghostly animals caught in the destruction. Does the screaming horse embody the threat of Franco’s military nationalism; or does the spike running through its body convey its victimhood? Does the white bull represent Spain, the country of matadors and a common theme in Picasso’s work– or does it stand for the brutality of war?

In this scene of strife, these animals raise more questions than answers. And additional elements hidden throughout the frame offer even more secrets for close observers. At the top of the canvas flashes a bird desperate to escape the carnage. And the abundance of animals on display may hint at the bombing’s date– a market day which flooded the streets with villagers, animals, and other potential causalities.

Like the bombing of Guernica itself, Picasso’s painting is dense with destruction. But hidden beneath this supposed chaos, are carefully crafted scenes and symbols, carrying out the painting’s multifaceted attack on fascism. Decades after its creation, "Guernica" retains its power to shock viewers and ignite debate, and is often referenced at anti-war gatherings around the world. Hundred of viewers have grappled with its harsh imagery, shattering symbolism and complex political messaging. But even without a close understanding of it’s complicated subtext, Picasso’s work remains a searing reminder of the true casualties of violence.


Bron: TED.com
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