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Picasso's War

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  370 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
On April 26, 1937, the Basque town of Guernica in northern Spain was bombed by Hitler's Luftwaffe in the midst of a bloody civil war on behalf of Francisco Franco's rebel forces. Twenty-four hours later, the village lay in ruins, its population decimated.This act of terror and unspeakable crueltythe first large-scale attack against civilians in modern warfareoutraged the w ...more
Published January 19th 2004 by Pocket Books (first published 2002)
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Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot reading this book. I saw Guernica, Picasso's painting when I was in Madrid in April. But I didn't know the background story of the painting. During the Spanish Civil War, in 1937, Franco allowed the German and Italian air forces to bomb the Basque village of Guernica. The village was destroyed. The Franco government denied that it allowed bombings to occur, instead he blamed the Communists. The Germans viewed it as a practice for future bombings or blitzkriegs. Picasso was living ...more
Dec 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
I bought this book at the Picasso Museum in Malaga Spain the summer before last. I was grateful I had such a good book to read as I and my buddy Jim embarked on a journey through the Dantean underworld trying to get to Nice and then down to the Carmargue. Our bags were lost and we spent four stinky days at a horse farm. You know you need a shower when horses turn away from you.

This book is a model for anyone wanting to write a contemporary history---it reminds me of stuff Steven Watson has done
Vasilis Manias
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Όλοι μας γνωρίζουμε τη Γκουέρνικα αλλά πόσοι πραγματικά κατέχουμε τι πραγματικά απεικονίζει, πόσο πολύ περιπλανήθηκε κατα τη διάρκεια του Β Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου αλλά και τον αντίκτυπό της στον πόλεμο αυτό;
Δηλώνω ενθουσιασμένος με το βιβλίο, έκλαψα τη στιγμή που ο πίνακας επέστρεψε μετά το θάνατο του Πικάσσο στην Ισπανία και έμεινα να αναρωτιέμαι πως είναι δυνατόν να περιμένουμε πίσω τα Μάρμαρα του Παρθενώνα από το Βρετανικό Μουσείο τη στιγμή που το εμβληματικότερο έργο ενάντια στον πόλεμο, 70 και
Feisty Harriet
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-and-artists
This is a re-read for me, but after finishing My Name is Asher Lev which talks about art during the first half of the 1900′s where Picassso was the master and king, I decided to re-read this. Picasso’s War is a semi-biographical book about Picasso as a Spanish exile living and painting in France. The bulk of the book details the Spanish Civil War in 1937-1939, which in many ways was a testing ground for Hitler and Mussolini to flex their muscles on a compliant and cowardly Franco government. (“F ...more
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
From my blog:

I'm reading Picasso's War. It is so good - just the sort of thing I need to keep the old grey matter going. I can't - I just can't believe the destruction that took place at Guernica. It's beyond words. I was reading about the bombing while on my lunch break yesterday and was so deeply moved. The things humanity does to itself are just astounding. And all of Europe was horrified and up at arms - yet we allow these things to happen again and again. The author, Russell Martin, describ
Mar 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd have to say this one is 'strictly for fans,' of art or history or art history. And it's a shame because there's so much good info here for the initiated: the Spanish Civil War, the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika by the Nazis, and the creation of one the world's best known paintings.

This would have made a great New Yorker article and that's the problem right there, instead, it's been extruded into a book, albeit a short one, but one that could have been an eighth as long as still had t
Mark Valentine
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin's account of the backstory behind Picasso's painting of Guernica I found useful. I want to use the painting in some of my classes as a means of reading a text, in this case, a large mural, with scrutiny. I believe it is important because Picasso himself (I learned while reading) never considered himself a surrealist; rather, he thought of himself as a realist who used symbols and allegories to communicate and express--in this case, disgust for (fascist) war and its immoral toll on humans. ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, art, war
Pablo Picasso's painting, Guernica, is discussed: the Spanish Civil War that led to its creation, the painting itself of course, the artist's life, the painting's place in the world both physically and symbolically, etc.

The author mixes historical and personal narration with excerpts from newspaper and magazine articles and statements from interviiews with witnesses of the titular bombing, as well as contemporaries of Picasso and those involved with the painting or the struggles in Spain throug
Andy Oram
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book focuses narrowly on one painting, but inevitably it becomes a journey through the 20th century (and beyond, to the tragedy of September 11, 2001), and it cannot fail to arouse feelings. It mixes history, politics, and art adroitly in a way that should be done more often. Although I don’t buy the thesis that Guernica is the most important 20th-century painting, its story is fascinating and makes one think about the awful way in which the destruction of the city of that name prefigured W ...more
I went back to my art history book from college to find as large a reproduction of the Guernica painting as I could find to fix its details in my mind. Martin takes us on the journey from the obliteration of the town by Nazi bombers through Picasso's creation of the painting in response to the atrocity, and then on the parallel tracks of Picasso's self exile outside Spain during Franc's reign and the painting's journey to France, the U.S. and finally back to Spain. Martin does a skillful job of ...more
Jul 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, art, biography
Martin's book seeks to juggle political/world history, art history, and biography of Picasso-- and to some extent, the book succeeds. There is a definite tilt toward Spanish political history, though, that leaves one wishing for a bit more insight into the painter himself, though I understand that this was not meant to be a thorough biography in any sense. Additionally, the argument that the painting "changed the world" is not really fleshed out as much as I'd hoped, though certainly the book pr ...more
This extremely insightful and compelling history of the famed Spanish artist and his renowned painting, Guernica, is equal parts biography and art history. Chronicling the brutal razing of the Basque town Guernica by Nazi bombers in 1937, Martin explores the details behind Picasso’s expatriation to France during the rise and rule of Franco and the creation and reception of the epic painting. Picasso’s War is an inspiring and enlightening read for anyone interested in art history, the Spanish civ ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really an interesting book to me. It's about the destruction of Guernica, and how it inspired Picasso's painting. It talks about the history of the painting, early sketches, its place in exhibitions throughout Europe and America, and finally its arrival at a permanent home in Spain. Also talks about the significance it has come to have throughout the world as a symbol for peace. This book put the painting in its historical context, and helped me understand those times better. It also ha ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I am not a huge fan of Picasso's work, but my wife who is the art buff in this family had bought it and recommended it to me. I had seen photographs of his famous painting of the destruction Guernica and was interested to understand its background. This of course spawned one of my favourite quotes - when soldiers looked at the painting and asked did you do this, Picasso answers, no, you did.

If the world can't learn from this 80 years later then were truly are doomed.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I already know quite a lot about the recent history of Spain, but not a lot about Guernica, so I thought this book would be an interesting read. It might be good as an introduction to both the painting and the history of Spain after the Civil War, but I found it very boring. The topic was interesting and I learned a lot of new things, but there was something about the writing that really lacked any kind of ability to keep the reader's interest.
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lucid and interesting account of Picasso's masterpiece "Guernica," the act of barbarity that caused its creation, and its lingering worldwide impact as a symbol of human atrocity and suffering. Would have been vastly improved by photos of the many artworks and architectural structures discussed, and the last quarter (maybe the last third, even) feels padded. An easy read, though, and worthwhile.
Lori Watson koenig
Was really good for a history buff like me. Opened my eyes to stuff I didn't know about the Spanish civil war and about Pablo picasso.

Much of the book (too much) was about the fight for the final exhibition place of the painting. It was interesting but just a little too long for me.

Lots of information about the Basques. Loved that. This is a piece of art and an historical tragedy that I knew nothing about.
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful read! This book explores so many things so well -- Picasso's life, Spainish politics, and artistic movements during WWII. Ultimately, Martin's book is a love letter to "Guernica," one of the most imoprtant works of 20th century art. It is a truly splendid book!
Pete Cochran
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very very good book! I just pulled it off the Library shelf... no reason to my choice... It is very wonderful... I can pretend to be more facinating than I really am with the History lesson this book provided me.
So glad to have been introduced to this book. I learned so much about the painting, the background story, Picasso (he's huge), then again, another aspect of WWII. I was engaged with the story from the very beginning.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Totally pedestrian approach to an infamous crime and a famous painting. The style of writing managed to make both the war and Picaso's life feel repetitive without making either subject feel as if it was leading to any resolutions.
Mar 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the history in this book, and some of the vivid imagery the author describes. It's not fantastic but does give some insight into the times and life of the artist.
Details the conflict in Spain, and the managing and painting of Guernica.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Art lovers
The book is brain candy for art/Spanish history buffs and Picasso lovers alike. It delves into the history of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso's private and public lives, and the impetus for one of his most legenday paintings, Guernica.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was an excellent look at the life of an influential artist and the events that shaped his work. I have a new understanding of the man and the art. After reading this book, you will view and feel the artist's work with new perspective. As for me, I can hear Guernica scream.
Oct 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: realists and cubists alike
what are we doing to ourselves???? "painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war." Picasso

started reading this while standing in front of Guernica in Madrid....amazing
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a well written, informative, and creative perspective on the Spanish Civil War. Painful in parts, but that is as it should be.
Kathleen Valentine
My dear friend Leslie Wind just gave this to me. Looks wonderful!
May 29, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's a little difficult to get through. I love political history but at times it feels like the author is trying to squeeze in all the information he has just for the sake of doing so.
Nov 23, 2007 rated it liked it
really enjoyed this book
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting interplay of history and art: a bit dry at points, but still a quick, great read.
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