11.07.2019 in Review

“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso and “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali


“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso and “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali are vivid examples of Spanish art and culture, dating back to the early twentieth century when artists sought inspiration in every small detail. At the same time, each of these paintings has its strong features, influencing generations of younger artists. “Guernica” was inspired by the Spanish Civil War, serving as a response to the bombing of the small village. Picasso’s piece is a large extensive explanation of the pain and chaos affecting, people during the war. IIn contrast to “Guernica,” “The Persistence of Memory” is a small piece that shows how a person’s imagination creates bright surreal pictures, leaving reality aside.

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“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso created ‘Guernica,’ one of the contradictory pieces of art, which also closely relates to the Spanish Civil War and the contemporary situation in the world. The general facts about this picture are available due to its popularity gained when it first appeared and was displayed internationally through a brief tour. Some people understood the meaning and the message by Picasso, depicting the bombing of Guernica, a small village in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. Brief overview. The historical context of “Guernica” points to the events that preceded the Second World War. It seemed that Spain was one of the victims of impending fascism, with people dying because of the nationalist ideas of their leaders, such as General Francisco Franco. The collision of powers involved many innocent people who fell victim to the cruel and bloody massacres, including the bombing of the village of Guernica. History, emotions, public acclaim. Even though some critics interpreted the picture as a symbol of the Basque people and their particular tragedy, most general interpretations involved the Spanish Civil War and the violence of fascism. At the same time, the cruelty of war and any action, which brings chaos to the peaceful life of farmers, teachers, builders, individuals of other professions, their children, and many other creatures and things, is a part of “Guernica.” Personal opinion. “Guernica” by Picasso is one of the most powerful antiwar pieces of art that can be found in the contemporary collections, because it evokes all the feelings, makes the audience feel compassion to pain and suffering of all people that have ever saw war. My personal point on “Guernica” is based on the overall lack of understanding towards such concepts as war and other similar instances of cruelty. There is always a way to solve the problem, unless the parties are interested in massacre and hatred for several future generations. I liked the painting, because it is large and gloomy, painted with black and white, and blurred via grey palette. Picasso is the master of shapes, while he thoroughly selected colors for this piece, since it symbolizes such negative aspects of war as loss, pain, chaos, despair, agony, killed child, and emptiness. At least, I can see all those concepts in the “Guernica” made with oil on canvas, using an extensive format (its dimensions are 349 cm × 776 cm) and scarce color palette. Perception: Pain and chaos. I like the picture “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, because unlike most of his other pieces, this one represents contemporary events and his attitude to them. On the one hand, it takes time to see all the small images in the background and in the front part of the painting, making the viewer stand aside and watch from a distance. On the other hand, many events in history can be understood only through a perspective of third parties and after some time passes. The pain is rather obvious in “Guernica,” because it is most frequently associated with war, while chaos comes when people, animals, and buildings become a mess, when nothing can be distinguished from piles of dirt, blood, and human remains. Every small piece of this painting has its symbolism, which may find various interpretations in the minds of the audience, appealing to their experiences, feelings, and some knowledge of the history and war. Meaning: History already saw wars. The history of humankind saw many wars that started because of resources, land, people, and various ambitions. No one ever thought about the civilians, the aftermath, the need to build everything up, the suffering, and losses. The major topic of “Guernica” shows how war changes peace into chaos, which may be necessary for those that claim that war may be justified. There is no reasonable justification for war, because war always involves the loss of human lives, and such a price is unbearable and not worth any land, national idea, or another barrel of oil when talking about the modern wars taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Yemen, Syria, and many other smaller conflicts around the world. Context: Today’s world is full of violence. It seems that people do not change; this is why I have chosen Picasso’s “Guernica” as a subject for the final paper. Wars do not make people less violent or oriented towards peaceful resolution of the conflict. Terrorist attacks in Paris made the entire world look at the threats imposed on innocent people today: A person may sit in a café or come to the concert of their favorite music band and suffer from the bomber who has a ‘holy’ mission. It is important to emphasize that I have nothing against Islam, which is a generally peaceful religion. However, those attacks in Paris, recent clashes between the police and civilians because of racial riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and many other smaller and larger conflicts show that the lessons of history remain unlearned. I would recommend this painting to those who cannot imagine what the war is and how it influences the lives of ordinary people, because before making some claims, an individual should realize positive and negative consequences, weight up every little damage that can be done to the innocent, and all the parties concerned. This painting does not compare to anything I have seen so far, because Picasso uses color, size of canvas, and imagery to show the pain he felt when he learned about the bombing of the small Spanish village allowed by the nationalist leader.


“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali

General facts. Salvador Dali is a well-known artist who created a number of bizarre images using the cultural movement of surrealism as the framework for his paintings. “The Persistence of Memory” is considered one of the most recognizable works created by Dali. This painting does not only show the concept of time, but is also often wrongly referred to as “The Melting Watches” because of the images of hand watches applied for showing the relativity existing between time and space. On the one hand, critics had several ideas regarding the concepts incorporated by Dali, pointing to the theory of relativity by Einstein, while Dali himself addressed the concept of watches and the process of melting through the Camembert cheese melting in the sun. On the other, surrealism creates such a wide variety of ideas for interpretation that critics might be wrong about every small portion of the painting. Dali is a vivid representative of Spanish art and culture, using surrealism to narrate his own stories about vision, memory, and dreaming. In this respect, “The Persistence of Memory” appears in the context of a story told by someone who is dreaming, who had a dream and decide to share it, or about someone imagining to be dreaming and painting all the imagery on canvas. Ants surrounding the orange clock symbolize destruction, while the figure of a man, which looks more like a dolphin that was cast ashore by the waves, is fading away. Along with the images of watches melting in the sun, the man and ants represent some ruination, which may also be interpreted through the blurring lines between the dream and reality for those falling asleep. Personal opinion. I liked the painting by Dali because it reflected something I experienced at the time when selecting it for analysis and critique in the final paper. “The Persistence of Memory” seems very natural and peaceful when looking at the background, which shares Dali’s passion for the Catalonian landscape. At the same time, this painting cannot be perceived as a simple landscape because of the imagery used to draw the audience’s attention to the concept of reality and memory. Dali’s idea of melting watches showing Camembert is very interesting, but it forces the audience to read between the lines and assess this piece through a philosophical concept of time, memory, and reality appearing as meaningful or irrelevant depending on the perspective taken. Perception: Dreams cannot compare to reality. Reality is something that takes place in a particular moment of time, while dreams may appear whenever a person falls asleep or daydreams in leisure time. The perception of this painting is rather complex, with the landscape creating a wonderful feeling of lightness and fresh air, and the bizarre part of melting watches and a fading creature pointing to the mysteries happening in the human mind. When appealing to the title of this artwork, memory becomes something to be understood via the imagery employed by Dali. No matter how destructive the dreams are, reality changes everything, making the likes sharper and objects harder. When a dream becomes a reality in a positive way, this is usually considered a blessing or some good news, because a good dream coming true is what everyone wants. The negativity of dreams is clearly seen in Dali’s piece, as it shows objects fading away. Every time a person relies on his memory, it may let him down, because of the false images and individual perceptions of events. Historic events also become a part of the collective memory kept in the archives, books, and minds of witnesses, providing false ideas for those who misunderstood the history. Meaning: What is real in the dream may be irrelevant in reality. When a dream shows some horrors, they appeal to a person’s inner condition. Fears, tragedies, and destruction read between the lines of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” shows vulnerability of human creatures and their weakness in front of challenges that reality represents. When watches are melting in dreams, reality imposes difficulties that are more complicated, representing dreamer’s actual fears. Memory of humankind serves for keeping ideas and sharing them throughout generations, while its persistence fades away with those watches, because interpretation makes every image, every situation, and every event that happened in history irrelevant and corrupted. Irrelevant ideas may still become a part of human history, especially when depicted in surreal pieces of Dali, serving to show how a person may see the world through the lens of daydreaming and looking at things with the eye half-closed. Context: Focus on the important things. Selecting Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” was one of the first choices immediately when I received the assignment instructions. Dali is one of the acclaimed Spanish artists that created bizarre yet meaningful paintings in a surrealist manner. I would recommend this painting for consideration to individuals interested in interpretation, and such concepts as memory, images, and differences in perception. It is clear that one would call white things black and vice versa, whereas interpretation of fears and terrors that came through negative events for one person cannot appear in a positive light for others. Perhaps, the concept of melting watches as an allegory to persistent memory serves to show that a single event remains in history seen through multiple perspectives and numerous angles because it affects many other lives that come afterward.

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