365 Days of Art: September 10 – Picasso’s Guernica Returns to Spain After 42-year Exile

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, 1937

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, 1937

September 10, 1981

Picasso’s anti-war mural, which he insists must never rest on Spanish soil until democracy is restored there, returns to Spain after 42 years. Although Picasso doesn’t live to see this happen (he dies in 1973), it seems like his posthumous salute to Spain’s democracy after decades of dictatorship.

The painting is inspired by a 1939 air raid on the town of Guernica by Franco’s fascist army during the Spanish Civil War. The fascists, supported by Hitler and Mussolini, win the war and rule until Franco’s death in 1975. The painting has been called a “refugee” for the way that Picasso deliberately keeps it out of Spain, loaning it to MoMA in 1939 with the express wish that it cannot return until democracy does.

Because the painting is so famous, and democracy is so new, it is displayed behind bomb-and bullet-proof glass screens.