Guernica & A Bucket List Deferred in Art & Travel (Picasso)

Cher’s Famous Art

13 May 2020


by Pablo Picasso, 1931, Spanish, oil painting

Before this worldwide pandemic hit and cancelled international travel plans, Skip and I had scheduled a 3 week trip to Spain (11 days by land) and Italy (9 days by sea!).  Unfortunately, it will have to wait for another time.

One of the things I was so excited about was to finally visit the last art museum on my Bucket List from Rick Steves’ Top Art Museums of Europe: the Prado.  Sadly, not this year. 

Today we were to have seen Picasso’s famous “Guernica” painting at the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Spain.  Painted in response to the bombing of the small city of Guernica, northern Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, it is recognized as one of the most powerful and moving anti-war paintings in history. It portrays the suffering of people and animals amidst chaos and violence. 


Due to political unrest in Spain in the mid-20th century, Picasso requested that the painting remain in safekeeping at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC where it remained until 1981before it returned to Madrid. During this time, I had the privilege of seeing the original in NYC–and I’ve also seen many replicas of it in various mediums (mosaic, tapestry, collage) around the world.  It was one of the treasures I discovered while living in NYC and exploring the city’s art museums. I’ll never forget the impact it had on me as I turned a corner and–there it was! WOW! At 11’5” x 25’6” and totally in black/white/gray, it is a painting that makes an indelible impression! The 2nd photo provides some scale to its immense size.

Guernica – some perspective on its size

One of my fun student “Aha” moments was when I took a group of students to Rome and one shouted “Professor Cher! There’s the Guernica!” To which I replied “No, the Guernica is in Spain; we’re in Italy!” And then…there it was! A life size mosaic on the outside of a convention center! (see below) I was more excited for experiencing the cultural literacy of my students that the work of art!

Guernica mosaic copy, Rome, Italy P.C. Cher B May 2006

Now that I’ve been teaching about it for the past 20+ years, and have a much deeper appreciation for this magnificent masterpiece than I did a few decades ago–I was looking forward to seeing it again with fresh eyes. Hopefully–another time!  

Check out the Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum on their website

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