Czechoslovakia postage stamp, 1966 featuring a reproduction of Pablo Picasso's Guernica
Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture, and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.
On April 27, 1937, the Nazi Luftwaffe, acting on behalf of Spanish nationalists, bombed the republican stronghold of Guernica. Atrocities in war were nothing new—but the brutality and scale of the human destruction at Guernica grew directly from the advancement of the airplane as a killing machine. Pablo Picasso, who still retained ties to his homeland after his last visit in 1934, responded to the horror in a monumental mural that became an antiwar icon.
In Guernica, the painting is the result of the confluence of increasingly rapid developments in the 20th century, both militarily and artistically. In the aftermath of the devastation of WWI, artists came to grips with its unfathomable results, simultaneously exploring new realms of psychology and technology. Surrealism, cubism, Dada, and other movements were all part of the reaction. Glenshaw looks at how these strains come together in Guernica.
Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 30 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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