Guernica and the Paris International Exhibition


In 1937 the Republican Government took part in the Paris International Fair and used the opportunity to build a pavilion which would bear witness to the tragedy of the war. Visitors were greeted at the entrance by an enormous photographic mural of Republican soldiers, but it is for the inaugural exhibition of Picasso’s great statement on the horrors of war, Guernica, that the Pavilion is most famed. When the painting was first unveiled, it caused a great deal of controversy, as many had hoped for a much more descriptive depiction, in line with prevailing socialist realism of the time. However, the international press quickly hailed it as a masterpiece. A tapestry copy of the painting was displayed at the United Nations headquarters in New York between 1985 to 2009, where it was briefly covered up so as not to provide a chilling backdrop to the United State’s announcement of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. The original painting is currently on exhibit at the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. Another important work on display in Paris in 1937 was  (The Reaper), a large mural by Joan Miró. Unfortunately, after the fair, it was dismantled and lost, though there are photographs of the painting.