Archeology of an Icon: Picasso’s Guernica and Spanish Democracy

  • Katherine O. Stafford
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict book series (PSCHC)


Pablo Picasso painted Guernica in 1937 as a response to a bombing in a Spanish town and to raise support for the Spanish Republican cause during the Civil War. The painting didn’t land in the Iberian Peninsula until 1981, however, forty-four years after it was painted. Referred to as the famous “vuelta a España” (“return to Spain”) in cultural, bureaucratic, and political dealings, Guernica’s “homecoming” was in reality a first time visit. The use of the word “vuelta” illuminates the sense of symbolic ownership shared by many Spaniards, which was rooted in a long and complex historic relationship.1 Its arrival (or “return”) in Madrid on September 10, 1981, six years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, symbolically performed a ritual of closure and separation. For many, Guernica’s repatriation represented the end to decades of oppression and violence, a new hopeful beginning, and the semiotic transformation of the nation.


Transitional Justice Spanish People National Symbol Basque Region Spanish Newspaper 
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© Katherine O. Stafford 2015

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  • Katherine O. Stafford

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