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The Cover
November 10, 2004

Weeping Woman With Handkerchief

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(18):2193. doi:10.1001/jama.292.18.2193

The Spanish Civil War began on July 18, 1936 and, with aid from Germany and Italy, spread rapidly. By November Madrid was under siege. But worse was to come: during little more than three hours on the afternoon of April 26, 1937, German Junker and Heinkel bomber planes virtually annihilated the cultural center and ancient capital of the Basque region, Guernica. Hundreds of its population of 10 000 were killed. Those who escaped the bombings were strafed by fighter planes as they fled their fields and markets. The news reached Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) in Paris three days later. Outrage galvanized him. Already working—without success thus far—on a contribution to the Spanish Pavilion at the upcoming French International Exhibition, he exchanged his Muse for Fury. Hundreds of images flowed from his hand. Within weeks the 55-year-old Picasso had completed the monumental mural—it was more than 25 feet long and nearly 300 square feet in area—known simply as Guernica. Viewers could not decipher its strange and horrible images, but its meaning was clear enough. Almost 70 years later, it is still recognized as one of the most powerful anti-war paintings ever created. Modern art historian Herbert Read has referred to it as “the modern Calvary.” Guernica is Picasso’s signature, writ large.