Art Travel Guide

My encounter with the Guernica in Madrid

The Reina Sofia Museum, as I covered last time, is the home of Spain’s Modern Art masterpieces. The experience at the Reina Sofia is a majestic walk through the great works of the Spanish Modernist — from Salvador Dali to Juan Miro. As you marvel at the illuminating creations you cannot avoid the glaring evidence of the massive effect of the Spanish masters on the modern art movement.

With that said, there is one Spanish artist who has set the tone for the 20th-century evolution of Modern Art, you guessed it… that artist is Pablo Picasso.

Even though Pablo Picasso is a Spanish native, his works were banned from the country throughout the rain of Generalisimo Franco. The artists’ public rejection of Franco made him unwelcomed by the tyrant in his own native country.

This prelude makes the story of the Guernica oil painting at Sofia, Madrid an extra special one.

The Guernica is probably Picassos’ most famous creation. Not an easy task as his works of art have been grasping the highest average dollar value for the past 20 years.

Guernica is a depiction of the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the height of the Spanish Civil War on April 26, 1937. My mother used to call it the grand rehearsal of the Second World War.

The Spanish Republican government commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a large mural for the Spanish display at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians.

As you walk through the Reyna Sofia, just as you are about to enter the Guernica hall, you get the feeling that you are about to encounter greatness… similar to the feeling you get as you enter the Sistine chapel, there are only a handful of artistic creations that inspire the same emotions. The Guernica at the Reina Sofia is one such display.
When you set yourself in front of the display it takes many minutes to stare at it. You can probably spend an hour just staring at it and probably an entire semester analyzing this masterpiece in art or history class.

The Sofia holds a room adjacent to the Guernica that holds famous paintings and sculptures relating to the Spanish Civil War including preliminary sketches of various parts of the Guernica.

This huge oil painting which was originally inspired by a newspaper clip has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. The symbolism is abundant in every stroke and it is an important engagement I recommend to any Madrid visitor.

In conclusion, the Guernica will forever remain Picasso’s greatest work. As the years go by the importance of the message it delivers to the world just gets more and more important and relevant.

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.