Art Appreciation Short Essay
1. Picasso chose the color, lines and shapes that he did to set the mood of the painting. Black and white can help transform your feelings with the use of shadows, the contrast,and the light . In 1937, Picasso expressed his outrage against war with Guernica, his enormous mural-sized painting displayed to millions of visitors. Much of the painting’s emotional power comes from its overwhelming size, approximately eleven feet tall and twenty five feet wide. The visual elements contribute to the strength of the political message, Picasso was sympathetic to the Republican government of his homeland, was horrified by the reports of devastation and death. Guernica is his visual response, his memorial to the brutal massacre. The painting is not easy to decipher. My eyes move towards the frenetic action, figures begin to emerge. On the far left is a woman, head back, screaming in pain and grief, holding the lifeless body of her child. Probably the most devastating and unforgettable image in the painting. All the faces are distorted in agony eyes are dislocated, mouths are open. “The horse and bull are images Picasso used his entire career, part of the life and death ritual of the Spanish bullfights he first saw as a child”. Picasso said only that the bull represented brutality and darkness, adding “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words. The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them” (Robinson)
2. This painting was created in response to the Nazi bombing of the town of Guernica, a Basque country village in northern Spain, at the request of Spanish Nationalists.
I think Picasso’s choice to paint in blank, white, and gray colors was to bring out the gruesome scenes of pain and chaos caused by the bombing. It gives the right somber mood of the devastation left behind. The lines and shapes connect the ramifications of a war to the individuals who witnessed and perished during the attack.
The visual elements in this painting, in my opinion, send a message that a war is a devastating destructive power, a war that brought defeat to the people in this town, and the horrific desperation of those who cannot defend themselves, which at the time were mostly women and children since many of the men were away fighting on behalf of the Republicans.
As previously stated, the demographic of the town at that time were mostly women and children, and so Picasso depicted those figures in closed quarters and in outcry of horror. Perhaps his decision to include a woman and a child was to imply vulnerability, for the inclusion of a dying soldier to suggest defeat, and for the horse and bull, resiliency and angry protest.
Picasso may had seen women and children as vulnerable and innocent and thus more susceptible to the consequences of war and an assault to humanity, especially if most of the town’s men are not there to protect them. He also found out about the bombing via newspaper and made him detest the military class that had caused so much pain to the Spanish people of this town.
3. Picasso’s painting Guernica depicts the village of Guernica, after it was bombed by Hitler’s German air force. The composition of Picasso’s painting is very complex and has many components. For example, I believe Picasso chose the colors black and white as a memorial to the people who had fallen during the bombing. These colors also add to the dramatic nature of the work, as these colors are two extremes and often suggest death. Similarly, the lines and shapes in Guernica overlap, further creating chaos within the painting. The jagged geometric shapes add to overall feeling that the painting gives, terror. All of these visual elements contribute to the strength of the political message by portraying the event as chaotic, scary and unnecessary, all things which the general population sympathizes with.
Picasso’s Guernica depicts many different figures to represent the chaos and horror that occurred during the events. For example, on the left it depicts a woman holding her dead child. Women and children, specifically the family, were very important to people during this period, causing the audience to feel sympathy when seeing Guernica. Another example of the horror can be seen by looking at the dead man with a detached arm right below the woman and her child. Picasso also includes two other prominent figures, a horse and a bull. These figures seem to be helpless and confused, further representing the chaos that ensued in the event. Also, as they are animals, they represent an innocent death. The choosing of these figures makes sense as they were prominent in Spanish culture, and thus were important to Picasso personally. These figures were also important to Picasso politically, because he was Spanish, and by painting such a sentimental and dramatic piece he obviously was supporting his home government in the 1936 Spanish Civil War.
4. Pablo Picasso took the bombing of Guernica to heart. The darkness of the painting comes from the newspaper article about the bombing in which Picasso envisioned this as a night massacre when it happened during the daytime. Since the focus should be on each object in the painting, he uses straight lines to make those objects distinct. The jagged edges may be used to convey the turmoil of the scene. Since each element (object) represents a specific person, place or thing in Picasso’s life, he made sure that everyone could clearly see them, making his political statement strong.
Picasso included the following items: massive bull (this represents the city of Spain and its bullfighting history), wounded horse (the many tick mark lines represent the newspaper article after the Guernica battle), candlelight bearer (this represents a former project of Picasso’s in which that light bearer represented art), fallen warrior + mother crying at child’s death (represents the people of Guernica who died in the bombing), figure with stigmata hands (refers to the Goya painting which has the same stigmata hands which was to portray the 3rdof May battle), and the eye with lightbulb (portrays the evil, like the searchlight of the planes that bombed Guernica). Picasso chose those elements, like a dying soldier and mother & child, to show how truly horrible the bombing was because it killed every type of person, not just military. These symbols may have been personal to Picasso because he also had children and has being influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and his portrayal of bullfighting. Picasso also was against the war and Ferdinand Franco and had previously made a comic strip to speak out against Franco, including those elements in this painting.
5. Picasso Guernica (1937) This was done during a market day with high crowd numbers.
I think Picasso chose the color, lines and shapes that he did because he wanted to stress that this event was black, evil and those killed which were over 400 civilians we innocent. People will make the statement that something that is easy to understand it’s all black and white. The Nazi Luftwaffe were known to do these types of bombings called terror bombings; not just to take over but to break the spirit of the people they wanted to control. That is pure evil. He is able to give you all this information like a newspaper which is also black and white, matter of fact and powerful. Good vs Evil. The emotions are strong and present. He is a very talented artist that can meld these abstract pieces which when placed together give you the sadness and painful side of war.
I do not see a horse, to me that is a German Shepard, to resemble the Nazi Regime. The bull is the Spanish Government for the bull fights. His body faces the dog about to bite but his neck and head are turned blindly to it and allowing the dog to strike. They say he has the tree of Gernika which he uses an oak to symbolize the freedoms of the Spaniards. The anguish on the faces included on those that are suffering at this event. The eye is open and casting light on the event. The body at the right of the painting is moving from right to left stretching out almost dragging himself in angst towards the atrocity that is happening in the left side of the painting. The arm holding a light out to again shed light to this horrible event. Picasso must have seen himself as the arm bringing light. His paint brush showing us how it all went down. Why would he not be the eye? Because I think the all-knowing eye would be presumptuous to assume. He may have left that thought to be for the government.
This is a very interesting piece with so much to interporate. I have viewed this several times and I keep seeming new things and possible directions for the art to take on.
6. In Picasso’s Guernica, a response to the German bombings of the town of Guernica in Spain, he chose to use straight lines, many that overlap, black and white color, and some very unique shapes. I believe Picasso used line, color, and shape the way that he did to depict a very particular message of chaos and sorrow. The straight lines used helps individualize the objects in the work of art, but the overlapping straight lines suggest a very chaotic scene. The black and white colors help set the sorrow mood and suggests this was a violent event that caused many people death and harm. The unique shapes Picasso used helps draw your attention to each individual object, but may also suggest that many people have had their lives distorted due to this event.
These visual elements contribute to the strength of the political message by amplifying and contextualizing the message. As many people read of this news in their newspapers I believe it may have been hard to really understand the magnitude of the events. Picasso’s Guernica is a visualization Picasso had when reading the horrid news, and I believe he used each visual element to help contextualize and amplify how significant and destructive of an event this was to the public.
Picasso included a few unique figures in this work of art. He depicts a mother holding her dying child, a bull, a horse, and the light is depicted like the sun. I believe Picasso depicted the mother holding her dying child as a symbol to the viewer of the pain and death that was caused by this event. This really relays the message that there was a catastrophe and significant life lost. The depiction of the horse and bull I believe were major symbols of Spanish culture, as well as symbols from Picasso’s childhood. This gives the work of art a much more personal touch to the Spanish and Picasso himself. The light depicted like the sun I believe is actually meant to represent a bomb. Although this was not a nuclear bomb, many bombs have been said to have similar power to a star, which is what our sun is. I think this light was meant to be the bomb dropping in on the town of Guernica. Politically, I think these symbols depicted by Picasso show his displeasure with the war. The distortion, gloom, and darkness do not tell a supporting story for the war, but rather a negative one. This is not a painting to support the war, but rather show the dark sides of what war can do.
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