“Action is the foundational key to all success.”
The painting is named after Guernica, a Spanish town in Basque Country which served as the northern center of the Republican Resistance and also as the center of Basque culture during the Spanish Civil War. Hitler had been using the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground for new weapons and battle tactics, and directed a group of German warplanes to bomb the town of Guernica for two straight hours.
Picasso’s chaotic style lends itself easily to depicting the confusion and pain resulting from this type of mass destruction. Out of the chaos, however, several images rise up to declare great truths to modern viewers. Here are a just a few of them:
1.) The raging bull, a common symbol in Spanish culture,shows the danger of rising Fascism at the time.
2.) The Andalusian horse, or “Pure Spanish Horse,” which had long been a symbol of Spanish nobility and character, is dying, representing the plight of the people of Guernica.
3.) My personal favorite, however, is the closed eyelid at the top of the painting, with a light bulb painted in the center. To me, this represents an enlightened people (The World War II era saw more scientific advance and progress than any time before it) who were willfully closing their eyes to the darkness and pain in the world around them. The world didn’t stand up to Hitler until it was too late, and humanity paid a great cost.
So how can a painting depicting hatred and violence serve as a worldwide symbol of peace? There are no children holding hands around a globe with bright smiles here! However, this work serves as a wake- up call, and a reminder of the high price we start to pay the very moment we refuse to stand up and boldly proclaim the truth. Winston Churchill said that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
As Christians, we must stand up and proclaim the truths of Scripture, even when this brings a hostile reaction from the world around us. Truth can be painful at times, and can sting our hearts – but like chemotherapy for a cancer patient, this discomfort is the only way to healing and restoration.
As Picasso shows here, peace does not result from ignoring the truth and pretending that there is no right and wrong. No, he shows us that absolute truth does exist – what Hitler was doing was absolutely wrong, and speaking out against these atrocities was absolutely right.
Christian, the world will tell you to silence your voice, to stop proclaiming truth, and to close your eyes to the fact that the world around you is in agony due to the “cancer” within their own hearts. But just remember that the path to peace has never been the path of least resistance. Take courage, and don’t be afraid to speak up for God’s truth.
It’s time we took a lesson from humanity’s past, and stopped allowing our neighbor to remain in misery – or even worse, to die – in the name of peace.