Lonely Planet Writer

Madrid is marking the 80th anniversary of Guernica with a new Picasso exhibition

The Reina Sofía museum in Madrid is marking the 80th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s world-famous Guernica painting with an exhibition devoted to the artist that starts on Tuesday.

The Pablo Picasso painting Guernica is viewed at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
The Pablo Picasso painting Guernica is viewed at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. Image by Getty Images

‘Pity and Terror in Picasso – the Path to Guernica’ opens on 4 April and will remain for five months. It commemorates not only the creation of the painting but also its arrival in Madrid 25 years ago. ‘Close to 150 masterpieces by the artist will be on show, coming from the (museum’s) collection and that of more than 30 institutions from around the world,’ said the Reina Sofía.  The exhibition also includes works from Paris’s Picasso Museum and Georges Pompidou Centre, London‘s Tate Modern, New York’s MoMA and Basel’s Beyeler Foundation.

Guernica taken down from the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in 1981 to be shipped to Spain.
Guernica is taken down from the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in 1981 to be shipped to Spain. Image by Getty Images

Claimed by some to be the most important artwork of the 20th century, Guernica measures 3.5m by 7.8m and is an icon of the cubist style for which Picasso became famous. Guernica’s location in the Reina Sofía never changes – it’s in Room 206 on the 2nd floor. The sketches that Picasso painted as he prepared to execute his masterpiece are in the rooms surrounding Room 206.

One of Pablo Picasso's earliest Cubist works goes under the hammer in London later today
Pablo Picasso painted the work of the terror of a Nazi air strike in 1937.  Image by Maurizio Zanetti / CC BY 2.0

Guernica was Picasso’s response to the bombing of Gernika (Guernica) in the Basque Country  by Hitler’s Legión Condor, at the request of Franco, on 26 April 1937. At least 200 died in the attack and much of the town was destroyed. The painting subsequently migrated to the USA  and only returned to Spain  in 1981, in keeping with Picasso’s wish that the painting return to Spanish shores (first to Picasso’s preferred choice, the Museo del Prado, then to its current home) once democracy had been restored.

(This story was updated on 31 March 2017.)