Articles

Explore “Guernica” with a Sprawling Visual Timeline

Two years of comprehensive research by the Reina Sofia have yielded a huge amount of material related to the legendary painting and the cultural responses it’s generated over time.

“Guernica” at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris (photo by Manuel Litran/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Consider it your new go-to resource for anything “Guernica”-related. A new, freely accessible website launched by Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum serves as an interactive library for materials related to Picasso’s famous painting, from preparatory sketches to its depiction on posters through the decades, to the transport documents necessary for it to travel from museum to museum. “Rethinking Guernica. History and Conflict in the 20th Century” is a massive collection, pulling together over 2,000 records from 120 public and private archives, libraries, museums, institutions, and national and international agencies, including the Musée Picasso in Paris and Madrid’s National History Archive.

William Rubin and Alicia Legg preparing for the exhibition Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective, at MoMA in 1980 (Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York © 2017)

Launched with the support of telecommunications provider Telefónica, the website is available in Spanish and English. As an artwork that became an enduring political symbol, accruing meaning far beyond the horrific war scene depicted in its frame, “Guernica” has a complicated history; it’s easy to get lost. “Rethinking Guernica” offers a helpful, visuals-based timeline that clearly traces not only the painting’s movement but also the different political discourses that arose around it. Among the most interesting material on the platform are photographs of murals, protest posters, and other replicas of the painting seen around the world that emphasize its resonating power and anti-war message. Other documents are less eye-catching but record momentous moments in the painting’s 80-year life, such as a 1974 police statement by art dealer Toni Shafrazi, who spray-painted the work when it hung in the Museum of Modern Art to make a political statement (he identified as an artist then).

Other helpful resources the website offers are zoomable, high-resolution digital images of “Guernica” — the artwork is apparently the largest to undergo capture by a gigapixel camera. The super high-quality files allow you to study the painting’s surface under visible, infrared, and ultraviolet lights as well as scanned by an x-ray, revealing traces of past conservation.

“Rethinking Guernica” is the result of two years of comprehensive research, and although it does not include all available records related to Picasso’s painting, it is a significant new resource for scholars or those simply interested in learning more about the revolutionary work. The members of the interdepartmental team at the Museo Reina Sofía who developed the project are now working on a book of the material, to be published in the coming months.

From a 1938 exhibition on Matisse, Picasso, and Braque at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo (photo by Olaf Vaering ©RMN – Grans Palais (Musée Picasso de Paris)/image RMN-GP)
Mural at the Plaza de la Constitución in Cordoba (photo © Heinz Hebeisen/Iberimage)
Poster with detail of “Guernica” (1981-1989) (image courtesy Archivo Fundación Pablo Iglesias)
Poster for a march in Hendaya on November 1, 1975 (image © Steef Davidson. International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam)
comments (0)