Note: When artists are representing their political Geist, their images need not be flattering to the governmental authority. Artists can reflect disenchantment with rulers or other officials and attack their credibility or integrity in a work of art. Two examples are Honore Daumier’s Murder in the Rue Transnonain, 1834, and Picasso’s Guernica, 1937. The first represents a massacre that took place in France. Garment workers were on strike in the city of Lyon and the emperor and military attempted to force the strikers back to work. Someone from an upper floor window of an apartment building took sniper shots at the emperor and his troops. The emperor was not injured but vowed retaliation. Early the following morning, government troops entered the apartment building and massacred everyone within including the children and senior citizens. Daumier’s image represents the senseless slaughter of innocents by a tyrannical and paranoid government.



Picasso’s Guernica serves as a condemnation of senseless slaughter as a result of advances in military technologies. The painting (created in tones of black, white, and gray) depicts the first night bombing raid. The electric light at top center represents the bombs bursting in air lighting up the night sky. The abstraction and simplification of bodies into flat shapes suggests the effects of the bombs which broke “bodies” into scattered pieces. Picasso was clearly influenced by contemporary news accounts and photos, which sufficiently documented the devastation resulting from war. As you can see the photographic view of the city accurately provides viewers with the disegno esterno interpretation of the scene. Therefore, Picasso could depart from the representational and portray, in an abstract style, the emotions of terror, panic, conflict, and chaos, which were just as important to record for posterity.

Art works such as these by Daumier and Picasso force the audience to confront or reassess attitudes toward violence, war, and political policy.