There are several reasons why I love Emmitsburg, and this area in general. Particularly, I am fond of the pride this town has for our country. I was not raised in an area with such a strong national bond, so the environment here is a welcome change from what I’m familiar with.
I thought about that this week as some buddies and I drove on the road along the battlefield for a late-night run to the Lincoln Diner. This week, branching off of the subject of battlefields, I want to discuss a work of art that raises questions about the nature of war.
Guernica, easily one of Picasso’s most famous works, was completed in 1937. This piece is incredibly detailed, and offers many potential threads of discussion. So let’s start off with,
“Why should I care?”
If you are at all familiar with Picasso’s other paintings, you probably know that he greatly admires color. Just look at some other examples produced around the same time:
Comparing Guernica to these other paintings, you can immediately notice the absence of bright color. You would be correct in the thought that Picasso did this intentionally. The choice of coloring gives Guernica a darker, historical quality: like a black and white photograph, one you might find on the front page of a newspaper.
As an aside, some have attempted to add color to Guernica in their recreations of it, such as the image below. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the original.
Additionally, the disarray, the damages, and the suffering all depicted in this image are each intensified by the lack of a clear subject. By contrast, you notice that in a painting like The Weeping Woman, your focus is immediately centered on one person. So by muddling the subject of focus, Picasso subtly emphasizes how injurious wars can often be.
The reason that you should care about this piece of art is because of the creativity involved in depicting such a harrowing moment. Oftentimes documentaries, photographs and films analyzing war are unwatchably violent, but in this painting, Picasso harnesses the chaos involved in such deadly conflicts without forcing us into revulsion. Instead of turning away, we’re drawn into a discussion about the nature of war, and whether we’re certain that one ought to be fought at all.
Feel free to discuss any thoughts or opinions below. See you next week!