Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica

A Three-Dimensional Tour of Picasso's "Guernica"


A 3-D video takes us through Picasso’s most famous painting with emphasis on darkness and form.

“No, painting is not made to decorate rooms. It’s an instrument of offensive and defensive war against the enemy.” Thus spoke Pablo Picasso of his work. Guernica, created in 1937, is the only work of its kind that expresses the tragedy and gloom of war through metaphor. A pictorial sign, it proclaims, in fact, a rejection of all military confrontation and any violence.

The now legendary painting was commissioned by the government of the Spanish Republic and created a few months after the bombing of the town of Guernica. The painting was thus entitled to represent the country in the Spanish pavilion at the annual fine arts exhibition in Paris. At the same time, it was intended as a channel for information about the role of the Republicans in the Spanish civil war to the larger world. And so it was. Picasso’s Guernica became an icon of the 20th century and initiated a series of Avante-Garde demands for freedom.

For those who enjoy the more subjective details, or even the paroxysm that such paintings provoke, Guernica expresses particularities that projecting beyond a manifesto, a feeling of fin de siècle, or even the end of history. One such detail is not tied to the figures within the painting, but to the overall appearance of the work, and is its dark monochrome. Guernica is finely detailed for its dark, stormy scene. It’s one in which the contrast within the range of the grayscale comes only from lightness and darkness. Perhaps this helped to make it appropriate for Lena Gieseke to build a 3D version of the painting.

Gieseke, a visual artist, actress, and wife of the filmmaker, Tim Burton, allows us to observe the work from some of its deepest secrets. The video splits each of the characters, allowing viewers to glimpse them from another perspective, and perhaps from a more sculptural angle, the feelings of the faces. The film culminates with the hand attesting to the indignation, with the broken sword at the center of the flower only barely visible.

The bull, the mother with her dead son, the dove, the horse or the light bulb. These and other characters within the painting will remind any art lover of Rubens’ Consequences of War, both beautiful allegories of the darkness of violence and suffering.

Related Articles