Ukraine sees Picasso’s Guernica as a current symbol of civilian suffering

The war in Ukraine sheds current light on the famous painting of Pablo Picasso Guernica† The work shows the aftermath of the bombing of the town of Guernica in the Spanish Basque Country that took place exactly 85 years ago today. In his speeches, Ukrainian President Zelensky referred to the work: “Mariopol is the Guernica of the 21st century.”

Today, the 1937 bombing was marked by a ceremony in Guernica, as the place is called in Basque. The attack took place during the Spanish Civil War; German and Italian planes bombed the city for hours. Hitler and the Italian fascist leader Mussolini supported the rebellious Spanish generals in the civil war and carried out the first bombing of the civilian population in Europe in Guernica. Up to 2,000 residents were killed.

“Imagine what it would be like for Europeans to survive for weeks in basements. April is 2022. But it seems to be in Gernica in April 1937,” Ukrainian President Zelensky said of the airstrikes in his country. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense posted a picture of Picasso on its Facebook page, and Ukrainian diplomats attended a commemoration in the Basque Country today.

They were civilian victims

“Obviously there are big differences between the war Russia is waging and the Spanish Civil War,” says historian Rob Hartmans. Today he publishes a book on history Guernica† “What we are going through now is a war of aggression for the annexation of the country. It’s the same thing: how civilians become victims in every war. It’s no different now.”

Hartmans: “The Guernica screams in silence. You are overwhelmed with commotion. You see an open mouth, a horse in agony. There is no sound. But you see – it’s a very intense experience. You don’t see soldiers, but a desperate woman with a dead child. That is the other side of the war. People who are now experiencing the horrors in Mariupol will feel that this image of them is too. “

Pablo Picasso made his world-famous work in a short time. It was commissioned by the republican government, which posted the painting in 1937 in the Spanish pavilion of the World’s Fair in Paris. In the following decades, the work toured the world. It was only after the death of dictator Franco (1975) that the work was first seen in Spain – under strict guard – in 1981.

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