Picasso's painting Guernica was prompted by the destruction of the Spanish town of the same name by German bombers, on 26 April 1937. News of the devastation of this ancient centre of Basque culture prompted an unprecedented venting of emotion on the part of the artist who, after completing the painting, continued exploring its themes of agony and despair in smaller works such as this etching. This particular image derives from the figure in the painting of a distraught mother holding her dead child, and owes much of its expressive power to medieval images of the Virgin mourning the dead Christ. This is a woman in an emotional torment made physically tangible. Her face is torn and twisted in anguish, pierced by tears with the solidity of iron nails; her mouth is trapped in a silent scream as she stares upwards in shock, horror, and disbelief.
Materialsetching, drypoint, engraving, and aquatint on laid paper
77.8 x 57.3 cm; plate: 69 x 49.5 cm