The event that was the immediate catalyst for the painting was the destruction of the Basque capital of Guernica, on its market day, April 26, 1937. In broad daylight, Nazi planes, under the orders of General Franco, attacked the defenseless town. Of its 7,000 inhabitants, 1,654 were killed and 889 were injured.
COMMENTARY ON THE IMAGES:
Picasso said at the first showing of the painting that the Bull represents brutality. the bull stands back to survey what damage it has done and contemplates its next move.
Mother and Child
A dead child hangs limply in its mother's arms. The mother's scream is represented by her tongue, which is represented by a shard of glass in the shape of a dagger. Similar shards appear throughout the painting.
The Severed Head
In the foreground is a fragmented figure with a severed head on the left and a severed arm in the center holding a borken sword. Picasso stated that the reference is to Uccello's Battle of San Romano . Uccello's interpretation of warfare as a ceremonial tournament contrasts with Picasso's own powerful image of mass murder.
In Picasso's notes the horse stood for the people. The dagger like tongue carries the image shown in the mother's scream. Above the horse's head is an electric light bulb which suggests the all-seeing eye of God. Even the light seems to shriek with horror.
The single flower at the bottom, center of the painting symbolizes hope that new life will continue togrow in spite of man's attempts to destroy it. The delicacy of the flower adds to the general horror of the scene.
The Two Women
Two women gaze at the horse with sorow and fear suggesting the similarities in concept and emotion with images of the suffering of Christ on the Cross.
The Salute to Goya
The figure on the right has his orher arms raised upward as if to ward off the bombs falling fromt he sky. But it is also the pose of the central figure in Goya's The Third of May. There is a similarity in the events that lead to both paintings--both were acts of savage brutality against innocent people.