One of the world’s most famous paintings generates a profound turbulence.
Black and white on a huge canvas, Picasso’s Guernica
It has become an iconic image of the madness of war.
But while Guernica is an image of war, there are no soldiers to be seen.
Instead, the painting depicts a very particular kind of war.
The bombs that fell in 1937 on the small town of Guernica
It was no accident. They were excellent targets.
Which reminds me, have you ever dreamed of flying?
In his masterful The History of Bombing, Sven Lindqvist shows us
he began to dream of bombs.
Early popular fiction depicted bombers high in the sky,
the absolute decimation of entire cities and races below.
And then, the dream became real.
Man learned to fly, and quickly, very quickly,
It proved an impressive way of keeping order.
Lets say you had valuable colonies filled with inferior people
And say the colonies were disobedient. They opposed your occupation.
You merely had to fly over the homes where their children
The fiery transformation was considered most effective.
You had delivered a clear message on the law of civilization:
Never resist your superiors. Never think of resisting.
In this way, early aerial bombing massacred civilians
Only you never heard of these bombings.
Their stories went up with the smoke.
Of course, the civilized powers dropping the bombs
They were nations of laws and justice and religion.
Only these laws applied to humans like themselves.
Humans unlike themselves,
That’s what was interesting with Guernica.
Europeans bombed innocent Europeans.
That was new in 1937. And deeply unsettling.
Picasso began working on his masterpiece almost immediately
When viewers gazed upon it, did they sense
No matter. A single painting, no matter how strong,
Soon the people of the civilized nations would learn
In a few short years, civilians living in huge cities
Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo would be
Of course, that was another time, another world.
The important work of our greatest artists tell us so.
[This final image is a photo of a Damien Hirst artwork auctioned off with some of his other works for some $200 million in 2008, a sale now seen as a perverse marker of contemporary decadence in the art world.]