Guernica is the world’s best-known work of art based on an act of war. It was painted in Paris eighty years ago by Pablo Picasso following an atrocity in the Spanish Civil War. On 26 April 1937, some fifty aircraft from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, in support of General Franco’s military rebels, fire-bombed and strafed the small market town of Gernika in the Basque Country, killing hundreds of civilians. The controversial canvas was first exhibited in the Spanish Republic’s pavilion at the Paris Exposition Internationale in the summer of 1937, and its endlessly reproduced images of suffering and death have been part of human consciousness ever since.
James Attlee is by no means the first to tell the story of the birth and life of this masterwork. Yet his slim book, which is clearly written and beautifully produced, both updates the tale and adds something fresh to the mix. His subtitle comes from the first