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Chapter Excerpts

The Spanish Dead

Remembering the Bullring

Images Spilling From Fingers

Save Spain!

A Wearable Pair of Boots


The Last Refugee

Guernica in Gernika
The walls of the Spanish pavilion of the Paris world's fair had yet to be dismantled in January 1938and the town of Gernika remained in rubblewhen Pablo Picasso agreed that the great mural could join work by three other artists in a tour of four Scandinavian cities. It was a clear indication of how the artist had begun to be labeled worldwide that he was included in an exhibition of work by the four foremost "French" artists of the dayGeorges Braque, Henri Laurens, Henri Matisse, and himselfand characteristically, Picasso, the fiercely proud Spanish patriot, also appreciated the acknowledgment of his secondary nationality implicit in his inclusion in the show. Opening at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, the collection of 118 paintings traveled on to the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, the Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm, and the Konstallen in Göteborg before returning to Paris in April. Unlike its reception in France during the preceding summer and fallduring which time Guernica  at once captivated and troubled viewers and critics alikeit was singled out for neither praise nor scorn during its months in Scandinavia, perhaps because the war in Spain and the cancerous spread of fascism still remained relatively minor concerns in Europe's frozen and distant north, but also because, as it was displayed alongside many dozens of other fine and challenging paintings, Guernica  left the muddy arena of contemporary politics and propaganda and rather comfortably entered the rarified realm of art.

Although Picasso had confessed to Spanish pavilion architect Josep Lluis Sert that he hoped his Guernica  one day would be housed in Madrid, it made little sense to try to install the painting in the Spanish national capital in the present moment, and so a second time he simply took possession of the great canvas on its return from Göteborg, and it remained rolled and stored in his studio in the rue des Grands-Augustins for five more months. Guernica  had escaped the fate of Joan Miró's pavilion mural, the same ignominious end as Alberto Sánchez's sculpture, but how its future would  unfold remained very unclear that spring. Its imposing size made its shipment and installation a challenging enterprise, and although it had been received in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden as a legitimate and important work of art, in other settings it still would be considered little more than an extravagant postera piece of visual propaganda not unlike the photomural of republican soldiers that had hung on the exterior wall of the Spanish pavilion. Yes, Guernica  belonged to the people of Spain, but no one, certainly not the storied artist who painted it, understood at the moment precisely how the painting could serve them best in the future.

Francisco Franco's rebel army now controlled all of western and northern Spain, and although it still had yet to capture Madrid, the capital city was surrounded on three sides by the insurgents. The republican government had fled once morethis time to the presumed haven of Barcelonaand it struggled desperately to find the means to successfully sustain its defense. Spirits had soared early in February when the republican armywith vital assistance from soldiers of the International Brigadeswas able to regain control of the city of Teruel in Aragón, but the victory proved only temporary and the rebels recaptured the city on February 22. On March 16four days following the Nazi invasion and annexation of AustriaGerman and Italian bombers began three days of relentless shelling of Barcelona, the invading air forces dropping their payloads throughout Catalunya's capital city, killing 1,300 people and wounding 2,000 more. When news of the bombing reached Paris, Picasso was devastated. "All the barrios  in the city have been hit," he told his friends José Bergamín, the Spanish poet, and French novelist André Malraux. "My mother is perhaps dead. My loved ones are perhaps dead."

Excerpted from Picasso's War by Russell Martin, Copyright© 2002 by Russell Martin. Excerpted by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.