cover image PICASSO'S WAR: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece That Changed the World

PICASSO'S WAR: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece That Changed the World

Russell Martin, . . Dutton, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94680-9

Picasso watched closely from his adopted Paris as the Spanish Civil War unfolded, and when German bombers leveled the Basque village of Guernica, the previously apolitical Picasso felt stirred to action. Created at a frenzied pace, his painting Guernica was both homage to his Catalonian homeland and a scathing indictment of bloodshed. While Martin (Beethoven's Hair) meticulously describes the painting's creation and context, much of the book focuses on the controversies that haunted the canvas for decades. When Guernica was first introduced at the Spanish pavilion of the 1937 International Exposition of Art and Technology Applied to Modern Life in Paris, it was ignored by many, criticized by others for ugliness—and even for not being political enough. Later acknowledged as a classic, it was housed in New York's Museum of Modern Art, safe from the war overseas. By the '60s, voices grew stronger asking for its return to Spain, the country that had originally commissioned its creation. With Franco still in power, an aging Picasso asked that the painting go to Spain only when the country was once again free from oppression. Within this larger narrative, Martin weaves a memoir of his own trek to visit Guernica, which finally arrived in Spain in the 1980s. The culmination of this thread, when Martin coincidentally views the painting on September 11, 2001, brings the narrative into the contemporary world and highlights Guernica's brutal relevance today. (Oct. 28)

Forecast:Martin's Out of Silence: An Autistic Boy's Journey into Language and Communication (1994) was widely reviewed and acclaimed, and Beethoven's Hair (2000) was a Washington Post Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Look for strong national reviews, many of which will use the book as a springboard to discuss more recent political art (and the lack thereof).