Displayed near the entrance of the Republican’s pavilion, Guernica was the first thing many visitors saw. The complex composition, with Picasso’s characteristic Cubist figures and disquieting representation of space, was not easy to read. A braying horse occupies the painting’s centre, stumbling over its fallen rider sprawled below and lit by the spiked rays of a lightbulb above. A bellowing bull on the left seems to encompass a wailing mother with her child laying slack in her arms. A ghostly figure emerges from an opening to the right, holding a gaslight, while a woman closer to the foreground hangs her arms in despair. Farther back, flames and possibly ruins consume a howling figure. The dramatic subject is subdued, painted in the grisaille technique, a method using a neutral monochrome palette. Picasso said very little about the painting’s meaning, leaving interpretation to viewers, critics, and art historians. Although clear as an emotional response to war’s senseless violence, the painting, with its mismatched subjects, confounded world’s fair viewers. Whether it was successful as a political statement became a debate among scholars.
Fearing the Nazi occupation of France, Picasso loaned Guernica to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, which toured the painting throughout the United States and elsewhere for nearly 20 years after. As the painting traveled, it grew in fame, inciting heated debate on Picasso’s art and literary sources, working process, and the symbolism of its subjects, among other topics.
Picasso worked on the painting for 35 days, and finished it on 4 June 1937. 
Guernica, for which Picasso was paid 200,000 francs for his costs by the Spanish Republican government, was one of the few major paintings that Picasso did not sell directly to his exclusive contracted art dealer and friend, Paul Rosenberg.  However, after its exhibition Rosenberg organised a four-man extravaganza Scandinavian tour of 118 works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and Henri Laurens. The tour’s main attraction was Guernica.
Some critics warn against trusting the political message in Guernica. For instance the rampaging bull, a major motif of destruction here, has previouse figured, whether as a bull or Minotaur, as Picasso’ ego. However, in this instance the bull probably represents the onslaught of Fascism. Picasso said it meant brutality and darkness, presumably reminiscent of his prophetic. He also stated that the horse represented the people of Guernica.
Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural’s two dominant elements: the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, “The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso’s career.”
Guernica is a town in the province of Biscay in Basque Country. During the Spanish Civil War, it was regarded as the northern bastion of the Republican resistance movement and the center of Basque culture, adding to its significance as a target.
Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso completed in June 1937, at his home on Rue des Grands Augustins, in Paris. The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. Standing at 3.49 meters (11 ft 5 in) tall and 7.76 meters (25 ft 6 in) wide, the large mural shows the suffering of people wrenched by violence and chaos. Prominent in the composition are a gored horse, a bull, and flames.
An accurate depiction of a cruel, dramatic situation, Guernica was created to be part of the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. Pablo Picasso’s motivation for painting the scene in this great work was the news of the German aerial bombing of the Basque town whose name the piece bears, which the artist had seen in the dramatic photographs published in various periodicals, including the French newspaper L’Humanité. Despite that, neither the studies nor the finished picture contain a single allusion to a specific event, constituting instead a generic plea against the barbarity and terror of war. The huge picture is conceived as a giant poster, testimony to the horror that the Spanish Civil War was causing and a forewarning of what was to come in the Second World War. The muted colours, the intensity of each and every one of the motifs and the way they are articulated are all essential to the extreme tragedy of the scene, which would become the emblem for all the devastating tragedies of modern society.
Guernica has attracted a number of controversial interpretations, doubtless due in part to the deliberate use in the painting of only greyish tones. Analysing the iconography in the painting, one Guernica scholar, Anthony Blunt, divides the protagonists of the pyramidal composition into two groups, the first of which is made up of three animals; the bull, the wounded horse and the winged bird that can just be made out in the background on the left. The second group is made up of the human beings, consisting of a dead soldier and a number of women: the one on the upper right, holding a lamp and leaning through a window, the mother on the left, wailing as she holds her dead child, the one rushing in from the right and finally the one who is crying out to the heavens, her arms raised as a house burns down behind her.
At this point it should be remembered that two years earlier, in 1935, Picasso had done the etching Minotauromaquia, a synthetic work condensing into a single image all the symbols of his cycle dedicated to the mythological creature, which stands as Guernica’s most direct relative.
Incidents in Picasso’s private life and the political events afflicting Europe between the wars fused together in the motifs the painter was using at the time, resulting both in Guernica itself and all the studies and ‘postscripts’, regarded as among the most representative works of art of the 20 th century.
Paloma Esteban Leal