Madrid is a capital city of many virtues, and you will want lots of time there to get around and see and experience all of it for yourself. When you do get around to visiting the Museo Reina Sofía, take your time and leave a good amount of it for that one piece.
Perhaps stay at one of these Madrid holiday rentals and explore the city and galleries in your own time.
How a painting in just shades of Grey, Black and White can transmit so many emotions aimed directly at the observer is breathtaking. Blood is everywhere, from the wounded horse with the gaping wound, the bull in turn goring the horse, the grieving mother, daggers and scenes of torture, fire, dismemberment and pain.
Pablo Picasso - commissioned to paint the masterpiece
A symbol of peace
Yet, this 25ft x 11 ft masterpiece also manages to remain an embodiment of peace and an anti war symbol to this day. The fact that it is so long forces you to almost read it like a story.
Picasso was given just 33 days to paint it, commissioned by the Republican Delegation. The entrance to the pavilion displayed a giant photo of Republican soldiers and the following slogan:
We are fighting for the essential unity of Spain.
We are fighting for the integrity of Spanish soil.
We are fighting for the independence of our country and for the right of the Spanish people to determine their own destiny.
Take the message around the world
The emphasis on individuals and personal pain and suffering was at it´s highest zenith as Guernica was displayed at the Paris International Exposition in 1937.
Thereafter it was paraded on a world tour – ultimately bringing the Spanish Civil War to the world´s attention. The Museum of Modern Art in New York mostly held onto it until after the death of Franco when it was returned home to Spain, first to the Prado and then on to the Reina Sofía. (Picasso wished to wait until the Spanish people were enjoying a republic – he died 2 years before Franco but his wishes were observed.)
A tapestry copy sat in the UN council headquarters, but was later removed to the Whitechapel Gallery in London where it remains today. (It was deemed too risqué and gory for television cameras at press conferences in the Land of the Free!)
A forthcoming film by the acclaimed Spanish director Carlos Saura will tell the story of the painting and it´s beginnings, Picasso will be played by Antonio Banderas – a singular good reason to go and see it if ever there was one! The film will be entitled 33 dias or 33 days – indicative of the time it took for Picasso to complete the painting.
And the subject itself?
That most ancient of Basque towns, Guernica, or Gernika – the subject and sad scene of the painting. An April morning and market day, the town mostly filled with women and playing children became the focus of the world as the Condor Luftwaffe aircraft rained down it´s terrible bombs.
Today, you´ll find a town rebuilt, in a beautiful setting close to the sea and the Mundaka valley. There´s still a market, ironically one of the biggest and most popular in the area. There´s a square, a pretty church and a Museum of Peace… and since 1988 the monument Gure Aitaren Etxea, by the famous Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida, two years later in 1990 came another piece of sculpture by the British sculptor Henry Moore entitled Large Figure in a Shelter.
Fittingly, both of these monuments, placed next to each other, are considered markers of Guernica – the town itself – as a symbol of peace.
You´re also surrounded by the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve – 220 square kms of wetlands, mudflats and oak forestry. Look out for the Nocturnal Genet, with it´s enormous eyes it´ll see you first!
And here´s a funny thing, back in town you can see the famous Oak Tree – the Tree of Gernika - actually the seedling of an ancient oak – the symbol of Basque democracy and site of ancient laws – you know the phrase…. from little acorns eh?
Lest we forget.
The original Tree of Guernica
Flickr credits for this post go to: Recuerdos de Pandora/rogiro/ahisgett