I wasn’t so interested in Picasso himself but I was taken by his intentions for Guernica. When the Franco regime attempted to claim Guernica for a new contemporary art museum in Madrid in 1969, Picasso met with his lawyer, who drafted legal documents prohibiting such actions. The 1970 document stipulated that Guernica would only be shown in Spain “when public liberties are reestablished in Spain.” Picasso explained: “You understand that my wish has always been to see this work, and those that accompany it returned to the Spanish people.” He did not live to see that day in 1981.
I acknowledge the cliché I fell into by studying one of the most studied paintings in history, but I enjoyed following and diverging from my many predecessors. I was so enthralled with my thesis—the private carrell I had in the library, the stacks of art books I kept in my dorm, the image appendix I added to what became a 160-page tome—that I decided I should continue to study art in grad school. My masters program led me deep into obscure corners of art history and opened me up to internship opportunities that led me to where I am today.
In time with the 80th anniversary of Guernica
, in 2017, I wrote about the painting
for Artsy. I brought my bound copy of my thesis to the office to help with research, and it’s sat on my desk ever since. The writing may be cringe-worthy, but I’m still proud of it. And even though Picasso is maybe the last artist I’d choose to write about today, I’m still obsessed with Guernica
I can never know for sure, but maybe the fact that I almost missed the painting on that first visit to the Reina Sofía made me especially fond of it. Had I seen Guernica during my first walk through the museum, perhaps it would’ve been much less memorable, and I might have devoted the ensuing years to something entirely unrelated to art.