Picasso’s Guernica Revisited: A Lecture by T.J. Clark

Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937. Oil on canvas. 137 x 305 in. Collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.

Commissioned by the Spanish Republican government, Pablo Picasso’s iconic painting from 1937 pictures the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by Germany in the Spanish Civil War. By traveling Guernica around the world (to venues such as the World’s fair in Paris) Picasso successfully revealed the unknown horrors of this war. The large-scale Cubist painting is known for its anti-war imagery, particularly depicted through the tragedies of war on the innocent civilian. The iconography in this painting is a constant source of interpretation and debate; the mural’s two central figures, the bull and horse, are important characters in Spanish culture and history. When pressed to explain them in Guernica, Picasso said,

“…this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are.”

Picasso leaves it up to us to interpret.

T.J. Clark is Professor and Chair of Modern Art at the University of California, Berkeley. Clark will present his research and insights on Guernica. I hope you’ll be able to attend this special event on Thursday, April 29 at 7pm in Kane Hall 220. Free admission.

This lecture, part of the Katz Distinguished Lecturers in the Humanities series, is hosted by the UW’s Simpson Center for the Humanities and is funded by donors to the College of Arts & Sciences.

One thought on “Picasso’s Guernica Revisited: A Lecture by T.J. Clark

  1. I recently visited the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and saw the Guernica once again. I was fascinated by Picasso’s preliminary drawings and Dora Maar’s photos of the progressive stages of the mural. One saw clearly how the fallen horse–the central figure of the work–was derived from the picador’s horse of the bullfight. Professor Clark no doubt explained this in his lecture.

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