The horseshoe as sign of hope for luck in the Spanish Civil War
The Guernica is Picasso’s most famous painting. Everyone has seen an image of it. It shows the raw and penetrating horrors of the war. You can almost hear the screams of the victims.
The painting is full of anti-war symbols, but what many do not know, is that there are also small signs of hope and new luck: a lamp that keeps shining despite of everything, flowers in the hand of a fallen soldier and a meticulously painted horseshoe. The dying horse is the central image of the painting. The animal suffers greatly.
At first sight, we only see the head of the animal, but who takes a closer look can see its legs, and on its hind leg, Picasso painted, remarkably precise, a horseshoe. An intricate sign of hope for luck.
A sign of hope for luck
The dying horse is the central image of the painting. The animal suffers greatly. At first sight, we only see the head of the animal, but who takes a closer look can see its legs, and on its hind leg, Picasso painted, remarkably precise, a horseshoe. An intricate sign of hope for luck.
Bombing on Guernic
Picasso painted the Guernica in 1937 as a protest against the bombing of the town Guernica in the Basque country, on April 26, 1937.
The bombing was carried out by the German Luftwaffe, who fought on the side of general Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Soldiers had previously committed a coup against the ‘left’ republic. Franco fought with the support of conservative Spain (Phalagists, Carlists and fascists). Hitler and Mussolini also supported Franco in the civil war against the Republicans (inclusing Basques, Catalans and thousands of volunteers from all over the world). Franco won and Spain became a military dictatorship.
A demonstration against the civil war
The horrible bombing on Guernica was the first bombing in Europe which was aimed directly against civilians. Immediately after the bombing, Picasso started on the painting. The horse became the symbol of the bombed population. It became a large painting, almost eight meters wide. Almost no color; black, white and blue. It was finished after six weeks of painting. It was exhibited on the Expo in Paris as a demonstration against the civil war. It traveled around afterwards. Eventually, it ended up in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
The signs of hope and luck,
It remained there until 1981. Picasso had in fact stipulated that the painting could only return to Spain when the country was liberated of fascists and had become a democracy again.
Picasso did not live to see this happen, he died in 1975, two years before the fascist dictator Franco. But the dictatorship ended and the signs of hope and luck, incorporated by Picasso in his painting, were indeed promises of better times.