“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

Tonight, the 20th of April, marks the very start of my Easter holiday in Spain.  I’m taking the momentary blissful (albeit falsely so) feeling to dedicate some time to putting into words some things that have happened here in Spain since 2011 began.  The Picasso quote serving as the title for this post certainly didn’t come into existence between January 2011 and now but I did, however, discover it for myself for the first time sometime during those weeks that seemed to fly so quickly by.  I must confess, I began writing this post during February as a reflection on the time spent taking in some Madrileña culture with the company of my family during their visit to Spain.  Unfortunately, I’m very good at beginning blog posts and then failing to finish them.  Although every act of creating a blog post for me is apparently some bit of destruction, I created this post, beginning with the very influential quote from Picasso, with the intention of talking about one very influential piece of art that I encountered in Madrid.


La Guernica

La Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso’s most renowned works of art and I believe it rightly deserves the recognition.  I had seen the work many times in art history text books and on the internet but none of those modes of viewing could compare to the impact that this monstrous painting would have in real-life.  It’s housed in Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum, which is filled with outstanding examples of 20th-century Spanish art.  I wanted to make a post about La Guernica because I found the sheer size of this painting captivating, but the subject of the painting is even more awe-inducing than one might anticipate.

Location of Guernica in relation to Pamplona

The painting reflects the devastation inflicted upon the Spanish town, Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War.  On April 26th, 1937, the German air force together with the cooperation of Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, bombed the town of Guernica resulting in an estimated 1,650 lives taken (read more about the bombing of Guernica here).  The painting has an entire room of the museum dedicated to its display.  On the opposing wall there are small frames of how the painting progressed, illustrating how Picasso formed the ideas for the painting and carried out the enormous task of painting this work.  I didn’t expect that this painting would have such an effect on me because, although I find Picasso’s work very interesting, I had never really felt a connection with it.  I was wrong, I was left standing in the doorway in awe just as all my other fellow museum-goers were doing.  If I have un consejo (a piece of advice) for anyone visiting Madrid and faced with the decision about where to go and what to see, I would tell them to visit La Reina Sofia.  The Spanish Civil War is a very important part of Spanish history and to see it illustrated in the way that Picasso has done with La Guernica is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.  After viewing La Guernica, the photographs in another part of the museum have a bigger, more influential impact than before.  Learning about the tragedy that occurred and really thinking about the lives lost in Guernica while your field of vision is entirely encompassed by this imposing work of art created by an authentic Spaniard gives an entirely new understanding and appreciation of the Spanish spirit.  You will leave the museum and see the world around you – the people, the architecture, the culture – all in a different way.  When Picasso stated that, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction,” I’m not sure if he intended to reference La Guernica, but I feel that it is a perfect quote to accompany such a piece.  One thing that I was sure of after leaving La Reina Sofia; the vast act of creation of La Guernica definitely came from a devastating act of destruction.


About futureexpat

Just a student with a zest for learning, currently studying abroad in Spain and here to share all of my experiences with you.
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9 Responses to “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

  1. Ella says:

    this piece is moving even from a distance. I have looked at it many a time and every time I have that sort of stopped-in-my-tracks-deer-in-the-headlights sort of moment. It is awe-inspring to say the least. I couldn’t imagine seeing it in person- hope to one day! I have a question though – when you say it gave you new understanding to the spanish spirit – do you mean Picasso’s or the Spanish people?

    I just ask bc this painting is a representation of what Spanish nationals under the Franco government did. And there is still a large majority in Spain that still support and honor Franco’s government. In Picasso’s own words:

    “The Spanish struggle is a fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.”

    The painting represents that reaction against people and against freedom that Franco’s regime attacked. But it’s a reaction against the Basque people and their quest for freedom. Guernica is in the heart of the Basque country and was an attack on a people’s fight for freedom. The basque’s were horribly oppressed under Franco. They couldn’t speak their language, they couldn’t celebrate their culture, they couldn’t ‘be” Basque. And if they chose to be – they would be condemned and punished. And this struggle continues today. Only in recent years have they been able to pick up the pieces of what the Franco regime destroyed.

    So I was genuinely curious when I asked what you meant when you said the spanish spirit…if you were speaking of Picasso himself…his spirit…or something else?


    • futureexpat says:

      I have to say thanks so much for adding the quote from Picasso. I hope you get to see this work in person because the impact is overwhelming. When I mentioned the Spanish spirit I suppose I could only be talking about the ‘Spanish spirit’ that I’ve witnessed first hand. I’ve been living in Pamplona for almost a year now and it’s apparent that those from Navarra possess a unique and fiery spirit. For me, La Guernica made me think of that spirit to overcome such difficult situations; the steadfastness of the people I’ve been living among – it even might be considered stubbornness. 😉 Something to be noticed and appreciated none-the-less.

  2. Edgar says:

    Es complicado definir el espiritu español….Dependiendo de la época de la que hablemos tendrá un significado u otro. En el Siglo de Oro español el espiritu hacia referencia a la valentia, al honor, a la defensa de todo aquello que significaba pertenecer a un imperio. Sin emabrgo todo eso cambia si hablamos de la Guerra Civil donde en cada bando se definía dicho espiritu de un modo distinto.

    También soy de los que quieren crear blogs pero me quedo muchas veces en la intención de hacerlo.

    Espero poder seguir leyendo este magnifico blog.

    • futureexpat says:

      Muchas gracias por tu comento. Me alegro saber de este tema desde los ojos de un español… Claramente, los españoles (de cada región) tienen un espiritu muy fuerte que ha durado muchos años y continuará durar muchos más.

      Disfruto mucho escribiendo en este blog.. Lo empecé para dar unos cuentos a mi familia y amigos en los EEUU pero es muy divertido y interesante a ver que muchas personas en muchas partes del mundo lo están leyendo. Me alegro que has disfrutado leyendolo.

      • Edgar says:

        Each period gives a different meaning of the word “spirit”. Nowadays the meaning has to many political “touches” it depends on where are you (Cataluña, Pais Vasco, Andalucia, etc…).

        Feel free to ask anything that you want to know about Spanish society, political system…etc. I have a degree in Political Science and I´ll be glad to help you.

      • futureexpat says:

        Thanks for the expertise 😉 Very interesting to learn of different perspectives. Also, thanks for the recommendations on the music page! All of Paco de Lucia’s music is very beautiful to me. I will certainly add some links to his music to my music page when time permits.

  3. sarahdabomb says:

    I’m so glad that you got the chance to see this amazing work of art. The painting itself is amazing, but knowing the story behind it makes it even more amazing.

  4. One of my all time favorite works of art. So jealous you got to see it in person! Nice write up.

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