Pablo Picasso had already accepted a commission to create a work for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the Paris World Fair in 1937 when news arrived of the bombing by the German Condor Legion of the undefended Basque town of Gernika.
James Attlee offers an illuminating account of the genesis, creation and complex afterlife of Picasso’s Guernica. He explores the historical and cultural context from which it sprang; analyses the painting itself and the meanings that art historians, museum curators, politicians and anti-war protestors have ascribed to it; traces its travels across Europe and the Americas from the late 1930s to its arrival in Spain in 1981; and speaks with key artists, art-world figures and cultural commentators about its all-pervasive presence today.
In 1937, Guernica sounded a warning of what was to come: with demagogic politicians once more stalking the stage, Attlee argues its message is just as relevant today.
James Attlee is the author of the acclaimed Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey; Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight; Station to Station: Searching for Stories on the Great Western Line; and (with Lisa Le Feuvre) Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between. His career in publishing has included working at Tate in London and as editor at large for the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Oxford.
Will Gompertz is the BBC’s Arts Correspondent. As well as fronting numerous TV documentaries and programmes on the arts he is the author of the popular titles Think Like an Artist and What Are you Looking At and has appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe.