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Mychael Barratt: Guernica at the Whitechapel Gallery
Inspired by the tragic bombing on 26 April 1937 of the small Basque town of Guernica, Pablo Picasso painted his masterwork for the Spanish Pavilion in the 1937 Paris International Exposition. Picasso was working to a very tight deadline and prepared the vast canvas on 11 May and took just over a month to complete the work. With the Spanish Civil War raging and the impending threat of war in Europe, Guernica had become an ever more powerful anti-war symbol. It was decided that the painting should be sent to New York and remain at the Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping. En route, it was displayed briefly at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Picasso was so keen that the painting should be viewable by everyone that he said that people who couldn’t afford the price of entry could enter if they donated an old pair of boots. People placed their boots at the base of the painting and at the end of the exhibition, the boots were gathered and taken to the front in the Spanish Civil War and handed out to the largely civilian Republican army.