Picasso’s ‘dark journey’ explored in Madrid exhibition
It’s an artistic journey through “terror,” “panic” and “fear” that culminates in “Guernica”, Pablo Picasso’s universal howl against the ravages of war that turns 80 next month.
On Monday, Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum of modern art launched a major exhibition that delves into the darkness of Picasso’s work before his masterpiece, and attempts to shed light on how he was able to create one of the world’s most famous paintings.
“Pity and Terror: Picasso’s Path to Guernica” opens Tuesday and runs until September 4, bringing together some 180 pieces from the Reina Sofia’s collection and more than 30 institutions around the world such as the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and private collections.
“There is no other piece in the 20th century that has generated so many comments, so many interpretations as Guernica,” said Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the museum that has housed the painting for 25 years.
A depiction of the bombing of the small Basque town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, during Spain’s civil war, the canvas mixes stark, almost unbearable images of women, infants, animals in agony.
It has since become a potent plea for peace, recognised the world over and used in countless anti-war protests.
So what do you do to commemorate the 80th anniversary of such a famous, much talked-about work of art?
The answer: try to shed light on the Spanish artist’s journey towards Guernica.
In order to do so, curators decided to delve into Picasso’s work from the mid 1920s when the artist took a turn for the more macabre, possibly in belated response to the devastating First World War.
“Terror, violence, horror, panic, fear, death become his subject,” British art historian Timothy James Clark, one of the curators, explained.
The exhibition features such works as “Woman Dressing Her Hair”, borrowed from MoMA, or “The Three Dancers”, a canvas normally on display in London’s Tate Modern.
The latter, painted in 1925, portrays three figures engaged in a macabre, maniacal dance and represents the moment when Picasso’s art took a dark, violent change of direction, said Clark.
Women with dead babies, a person crying blood—the exhibition also includes some of the powerful preparatory drawings that he did before painting Guernica in May 1937.
“We wanted to think about the attitudes, the concerns, maybe even the fantasies and obsessions and unresolved knots in the psyche that went into the making of Guernica,” said Clark. JB
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