comparison and analysis of two war pieces

Topics: Guernica, Pablo Picasso, Bombing of Guernica Pages: 6 (1893 words) Published: February 24, 2014
Comparison and Analysis

Ever since the agony caused by the First World War, society has been battling the idea of warfare. The need for conflict is debatable; the benefits are a lot harder to envision than the losses it causes. As a result of the inevitable occurrence of warfare in the world…war artists emerge. Documenting different aspects of conflict through their art. ‘War art is not a typical or traditional ‘genre’ of art, however we could argue that it is a concoction of various genres such as landscapes, scenes from daily life, portraiture and possibly still life’. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica has become what is now seen as one of the most powerful anti-war paintings of the century, ‘as one commentator puts it: “Picasso often stressed the need for the modern artist to be a visual kleptomaniac, and with Guernica he didn’t disappoint.” ’ After having the pleasure of seeing this outstanding piece myself at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, it is immediately understandable how this piece is the focus of a great amount of criticism and is often described as anti war propaganda. Unlike war artist, Xavier Pick who chooses to describe his work as capturing moments of peace rather than destruction. Much like Picasso, Pick also chooses to capture the atmosphere of warfare, however of a more modern period. It is interesting to see how Picasso’s Guernica expresses no signs of optimism, whereas Xavier Pick’s work demonstrates diplomatic or peaceful intentions, which makes us question the possibility of warfare actually changing over the centuries, to become something far less horrific than the evident agony portrayed in Guernica.

(Picasso, P. 1937. Guernica)

(Pick, X. 2010. Marsh Arabs Shepherding Their Flocks on Leaf Island, Basra. Two Merlin Helicopters In The Distance) Xavier Pick describes himself as a ‘peace artist’. "People refer to me as a war artist," said Pick, who spent six weeks with military forces in Basra. "I prefer to think of myself as an artist who just happens to work in conflict zones." (X. Pick 2009) He himself studies a Japanese secular of Buddhism. He goes on to describe this belief, “the basis of this practice is the three pillars of Education, Creativity and Peace. I believe strongly that art- whatever form that maybe, is great medicine.” (X.Pick 2012) The focal point of Pick’s work is the ability to capture the themes and the atmosphere of different scenarios he found himself in, when he joined the British troops in Iraq. His work can be said to be slightly contradictory in terms of it giving us an insight into some aspects of life in Iraq during this period of warfare and conflict. However, rather than portraying destruction and chaos; which is what we would expect from a ‘war artist’, he chooses to illustrate ‘peace and hope for the future’ (X.Pick 2009). Xavier Pick is a multi-media artist, his choice of media depends solely on what he feels would portray each atmospheric condition best. Working with a realistic colour palette, every decision he makes on paper is a way of ‘illustrating the themes and feelings of what it is like for someone to be there; experiencing life in a conflict zone, additionally this may continue to change depending on the artists state of mind’. (X.Pick 2012)

This particular piece of work exudes biblical atmosphere and is immediately reminiscent of the biblical quote “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”(John 10:11) , instantaneously giving the image an aura of peace and faith. The image is rich in gold’s and amber’s, which are often used to portray God’s radiance. ‘Amber Halos are seen around the heads of saints and Jesus Christ’ suggesting ‘a oneness with God and enlightenment’. “Although we are still reminded of the time of conflict with the helicopters in the distance, possibly echoing past conflicts such as Vietnam and the horrors of that period”. (X.Pick 2009) As said by Xavier Pick himself. However the way they are...

Bibliography: Brandon, L (2007), Art and War, London: Tauris.
Harries, M (1983), The war artists : British official war art of the twentieth century, London : Joseph in association with the Imperial War Museum and the Tate Gallery
Polyxeni, P. (2003). Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Guernica (1937). Oil on canvas, 350 cm x 782 cm. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9 (6), 760-761.
Watkins, J. (2010). Picasso’s Guernica: Propaganda, Art, or Revelation?, Available:, Last accessed 7th December 2012.
Unknown, (2009), Guernica, 1937 by Pablo Picasso, Available:, Last accessed 9th December 2012.
Pick, X. (2010), Xavier Pick - preview to Iraq War Artist documentary.Available:, Last accessed 11th December 2012.
Weigel, C. (2004), PICASSO’S GUERNICA A Sum of Destructions.Available:, Last accessed 30th November 2012.
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