chapter  5
The Tragedy of War and the Search for Meaning in International History
Pages 21

Pablo Picasso’sGuernica hangsmassively inMadrid’s Paseo del Prado, offering there a permanent, Cubist testimony to the horrors of war. Guernica, as every fledgling art student surely knows, was painted in 1937 to memorialize the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by fascist air forces during the Spanish Civil War. As there were no republican soldiers in Guernica at the time of the attack, the victims were civilians-old men, women, and children. This Picasso symbolically depicts the omnipresence of death, the suffering of the survivors, and the physical destruction of the city. Yet depiction is not what Guernica is about, because Picasso’s object in creating his masterpiece was to find meaning in the horrific events of April 1937. For Picasso in this particular instance, as for other artists working in their preferred media, finding and conveying meaning becomes tantamount to explaining. For Picasso, perhaps, and certainly for countless interpreters, Guernica explains by giving meaning to the Spanish Civil War, to Spain itself, and to war itself, even to the human condition overall.1 This work of art may also capture something of the meaning of international history, the subject of this essay.