The painting was sent on a global tour after the World’s Fair in an effort by the Republicans to showcase the atrocities of Franco. For years it resided in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which the artist relished as it was out of Franco’s reach while still protesting the dictator, who steadfastly maintained that there was no bombing, but rather a leftist terrorist act. The masterpiece was well-known to the Germans, who confronted Picasso in occupied Paris, where Picasso rode out the Second World War. Upon entering into his studio, the raid’s senior German officer demanded to know if Picasso did Guernica, to which he replied, “No, you did.”
Picasso refused to allow the work to return to Spain until after freedom was restored. Picasso died in 1973. Franco died in 1975. Two days after Franco’s death, the Spanish monarchy was restored with the ascension to the throne of Juan Carlos. Democratic freedoms were gradually restored.
In 1981, Picasso’s Guernica finally returned to Spain, where it resides today.
Of course, both Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain were fascist, and both brought misery into Picasso’s life. As Paris was liberated in 1944, Picasso became a staunch communist, to the point that he painted a portrait of Joseph Stalin—although he was censured by the Parisian Communist Party for painting it in a way that was insufficiently reverent.
He did remain a communist for the balance of his life. His pro-Russian stance also meant that he was anti-West, at least in his political and governmental views.
An event, which Picasso viewed as similar to the war crimes in Guernica, was an alleged massacre of civilians in Sinchon, now part of North Korea. There is still great debate about who was responsible, the Americans, South Koreans or even the North Koreans, or some combination. The numbers of deaths alleged varies wildly, up to 50,000. In any event, the outright communist Picasso was outraged and blamed the American army for the atrocity.
He brought forward a Francisco Goya work, The Third of May, 1808, which showed, in a very historically-inaccurate manner, the Napoleonic army’s massacre of Spanish civilians and others, during an uprising protesting the naming of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, to the Spanish throne. Picasso’s 1951, Massacre in Korea showed a group of children and pregnant women being slaughtered by the Americans.
The truth of Sinchon has never been verified and history may never know precisely who did what. On the other hand, what is thoroughly known and understood is that Picasso was a pacifist, through and through. He died as he lived, with a profound hatred of war.