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Comparing Guernica and Third of May

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    IntroductionI have been asked to compare Picassos Guernica and Goyas Third of May.

    SubjectGuernica – based on the tragic happenings to the town of Guernica.

    Third of May – based on the executions of the Spanish patriots on the third of May.

    CompositionGuernica – focal point – horseThird of May – focal point – man in white StyleGuernica – semi-abstractThird of May – naturalistic ColourGuernica – black, white and greyThird of May – blue, black, white, yellow, green and brown.

    LineGuernica – many distorted, curved linesThird of May – no line used TextureGuernica – smooth textureThird of May – rough texture Form and ShapeGuernica – two-dimensional shapes; linear perspectiveThird of May – three-dimensional forms used; linear and aerial perspective JudgementIn my opinion, both artists have done well in presenting their own feelings on their subject matter.

    I have been asked to compare two paintings which are completely different in appearance, yet very similar in meaning. They are Picassos Guernica and Goyas Third of May. Even though they were both painted during different art movements, they are both displayed in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

    While looking at both paintings, I cant help but feel sorry for the figures presented in them. Picassos Guernica shows figures reaching out in pain, reaching out in grief, and reaching out to help. The word that comes to mind when first looking at this painting is shock. In Third of May, however, innocent looking figures are being held at gun point by an armed force. The armed force is distinctly at an unfair advantage.

    Guernica does not show reference to any use of shading to create three-dimensional forms and objects. However, he has overlapped two-dimensional 1figures. One can assume that he has placed the figures in various distances to create the illusion of there being foreground, middle ground and background. He has used linear perspective. Goya on the other hand has most definitely created a foreground, middle ground and background by using aerial and linear perspective. Figures have been overlapped and placed at various distances. The city in the background becomes undefined toward the horizon.

    In Guernica, the dead soldier, the horse and the two women lunging forward are found in the foreground. The woman on fire and the woman mourning are found in the middle ground. The bull and the source of light are found in the background. In The Third of May, the dead man and the soldier are found in the foreground. The victims are found in the middle ground. The hill and the castle form the background.

    Guernica is based on the brutal happenings in the small town of Guernica in Spain on the 28th of April 1937. The town was unexpectedly bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The bombing was a deliberate act of terror during the Spanish Civil War. Sharing the unexpected attack as a theme, Goya based his painting on one of the unfair executions of the Spanish patriots in the early hours of the morning on the 3rd of May from where the painting steals its name.

    Guernica is a narrative work of art. It is based on how Picasso thought this message would best be conveyed. He has painted it according to how he imagined the scene to happen. Goyas Third of May is also a narrative work of art. The painting is a visual representation of how Goya perceived this particular scene to happen.

    Both paintings convey secretly hidden messages. Picasso has created a painting describing the way he felt his people were treated unjustly. He has painted it in such a way to emphasise the pain his people endured. The figures of the painting have been made in a misshapen fashion to make them look as if they have been physically abused and internally hurt. Goya has painted Third of May to depict what happened with the Spanish patriots. He illustrates it in such a way that one almost feels sorry for the victims (also done by Picasso). In both Guernica and Third of May there is a definite light source provided. Guernicas source of light is given by the eye-shaped sun with a light bulb at its centre. Third of Mays source of light is given by an easily noticeable lantern placed in the foreground. Both light sources illuminate their light onto the victims of both pictures. The light is shone on them to emphasise their innocence. The attackers in Third of May, are however, shown in the darkness.

    Both paintings were commissioned. Picasso was commissioned by the Spanish Government to paint something representing the brutal destruction that was brought upon their town. Goya was authorized by the Regency Council to paint a picture commemorating the executions.

    I feel that the artists would not have painted these pictures just for the money, but for themselves too. I think that they both felt strongly for the people hurt in or associated with these attacks. I say this because they both put a lot of effort into painting something so extraordinary. They have both put a lot of depth into their works. This shows that they really must have cared. Picasso made many preliminary sketches to get his painting perfect.

    Both works share roughly the same moods. Sorrow for those who are dead, or who are going to die. Misery for the family members of the victims. Lastly, empathy for those who are in a sinister situation. One feels sorry for them to be in that situation.

    In Guernica, the shapes, forms and lines are arranged in a disorderly fashion. It again emphasizes body distortion. The artwork is rectangular in shape (landscape view). The focal point in the picture is the horse. This is made possible by projecting light onto it from the light source above; two women stare and point directly toward the horse as if it is their last chance of hope/survival. In Third of May, however, the forms are arranged in a naturalistic manner. The artwork is also rectangular in shape (landscape view). The focal point is the man dressed in white. This is made possible because the lantern in the picture illuminates bright white light onto him; guns are pointed towards his general direction. Guernica, in my opinion, is a semi-abstract work of art. Figures and forms have been painted to look abstract, yet they are still recognisable. Third of May is, however naturalistic. Its figures and forms are easily recognisable.

    No colours were used in Guernica. Black, White, and shades of grey were used. Colours were used in Third of May. Goya has used tones of green, brown and blue. He has also used light yellow and white to emphasise the focal point. Black has also been used a lot in this painting.

    The black, white, and shades of grey in Guernica have increased the impression of terror. If you describe a situation as black, you mean that it is bad and not likely to improve. White represents innocence and purity. Picasso felt that the people of the town were innocent. The figures faces are also painted in white as if to say that they are white as a sheet which means they look frightened or shocked. The people of the town are shocked at this surprise attack on them.Grey is also used. If you say that someone is looking grey, you are saying that they look tired, worried or ill. I feel that the use of shading is symbolic. In Third of May, however, colours are used. Black and browns have been represented on the men cowering in the darkness. This might say that they are scared or afraid of the men attacking them. White and light yellow are used on the surrendering man. It could represent innocence and purity. The white used on his shirt could signify that he is standing up and surrendering to ask for peace. Blues and blacks are used on the attackers. This could suggest that they are evil/cruel and cold-hearted. The colours used are naturalistic and symbolic. Goya has used warm and cold colours.

    In Guernica, many different types of lines are used. Curved, diagonal, horizontal, etc. Goya has not used any noticeable lines in his painting. He may have outlined figures in his preliminary sketch. The lines used in Guernica are used flowing in many directions. These lines make the viewer feel uneasy. This feeling promotes to the entire feeling of the artwork. Lines are distorted. The distorted bodies inflict the feeling of pain. The lines are used to direct your eye around the painting. They are used to form the outlines of figures and objects. Picasso has painted bold, hard outlines to make them really stand out.

    Hardly any texture has been used in Guernica. Guernica has been painted to have a smooth surface. The smooth surface makes the entire painting look two-dimensional. The texture is not naturalistic. Unlike Guernica, Third of May has been painted in a way to purposely add texture. The texture is naturalistic. Texture has been used very seldomly in Guernica. Picasso has created texture on the horses belly and legs; the bulls tail; the womens hair and clothing. Picasso has used smooth brushstrokes. Goya has used a lot of dry brushstrokes to create the figures shadows and shades. He has also used rough brushstrokes to promote feeling of uneasiness or panic. In addition, he has used texture on the grass of the hill and the blood on the ground. Goya has not paid much attention to detail, because detail is relatively unimportant for the message he is trying to convey.

    In Guernica, Picasso has used shades very sparingly, so the figures still look two-dimensional. Flat, angular shapes have been used. Goya, however, uses many tonal values throughout the painting and makes everything in the picture appear to be three-dimensional. Linear perspective has been used in Guernica. This is seen in the triangular shape that the light source makes, and in the overlapping of figures and objects. Goya has, however, used linear and aerial perspective. Linear perspective has been used by overlapping figures and objects and distancing them. Aerial perspective has been used on the building in the background. It becomes blurry toward the horizon.

    For me, there are many more similarities between Guernica and Third of May than differences. They may seem totally different at first glance, but once interpreted, one will see their many similarities. Both deal with persons suffering from shock or disbelief. Both show victims as innocent-looking, as if they didnt do anything to deserve such brutality. I feel that both share the same subject matter, but Guernica is represented after an attack, whereas Third of May is shown during an attack. When looking at these paintings one can immediately see that both painters felt that these victims were attacked in an undeserved manner. There are many similarities because both painters are dealing with very similar subject matters.

    To me, both paintings stand out significantly well in the way theyve been presented. Both have their negative points and their positive points. I prefer each painting for different reasons. I prefer Goyas Third of May for the fact that its subject matter is immediately recognisable: People being held at gun point. Guernica requires a lot of background knowledge beforehand, otherwise one will never fully understand the significance of Guernica. I prefer Guernica for its depth in the work. Picasso has scattered clues, symbols and hidden messages in his painting. I also prefer the childish visual effect that Guernica has.

    I feel, in my opinion, that both artists have succeeded in portraying their subject matters well. The significant amount of similarities indicate that both subject matters share similar meanings: Defenceless people treated unfairly. Both are visual representations of the horror experienced through a surprise attack.

    BibliographyAlfred H. Barr – 1946 – Picasso-Fifty Years of his Art – BOBBS-MERRILL Company, Inc. – New YorkLael Wertenbaker – 1967 – The World of Picasso – Time-Life Books, Inc. – OxfordAnonymous – 1989 – Discovering the Great Paintings-Picasso – Distinctive Distribution, Ltd. – LondonAnonymous – 1989 – Discovering the Great Paintings-Goya – Distinctive Distribution, Ltd. – LondonErnest Raboff – 1980 – Picasso – Gemini Smith, Inc. – Kent

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    What did Picasso's Guernica commemorate or symbolize what is the historical significance of this painting?
    One of the most famous 20th century paintings, Guernica was created by Picasso to express his outrage over the Nazi bombing of a Basque city in northern Spain, ordered by General Franco. Since then, this monumental black-and-white canvas has become an international symbol of genocide committed during wartime.
    What does Guernica symbolize today?
    Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.
    What is the main message of Guernica?
    One of the most famous 20th century paintings, Guernica was created by Picasso to express his outrage over the Nazi bombing of a Basque city in northern Spain, ordered by General Franco. Since then, this monumental black-and-white canvas has become an international symbol of genocide committed during wartime.
    What is the message of the artwork the third of May?
    Goya's painting has been lauded for its brilliant transformation of Christian iconography and its poignant portrayal of man's inhumanity to man. The central figure of the painting, who is clearly a poor laborer, takes the place of the crucified Christ; he is sacrificing himself for the good of his nation.

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