Or Lebel

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Maria Sancho Arroyo

Second Advisor

Brendan Burns


This thesis explores the intriguing journey that propelled "Guernica" from the initial obscurity of a commissioned artwork to its current status as a globally recognized symbol. The research unravels the multifaceted processes that have contributed to the transformation of a relatively overlooked artwork into an important painting and a universal emblem of protest, antiwar, and hope. The research addresses the fundamental question of how "Guernica" evolved into an important and universally recognized painting. Answering this question allows me to explore and explain how "Guernica," despite its lack of immediate recognition, grew to possess an enduring significance. The research also tackles the paradox of an artwork that, when initially painted in response to the 1937 bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, did not gain substantial attention but eventually triggered its eventual rise as an impactful painting and a global symbol of human suffering and resistance. This research methodology encompasses interdisciplinary exploration, combining art history, cultural studies, and political approaches. By analyzing art criticism, primary and secondary sources, the study examines the factors that contributed to "Guernica's" transformation. It delves into Picasso's creative periods and techniques, the symbols, the socio-political climate, and the evolving narratives surrounding the painting. Additionally, it investigates the role of exhibitions worldwide, media coverage, and the painting's relevance in today’s world situation. The investigation unveils that "Guernica's" transformation from relative obscurity to global significance was a gradual but purposeful process. Over time, changing socio- political contexts and an evolving human rights movement facilitated its transition into a powerful symbol of protest against injustice and warfare. Understanding "Guernica's" transformation illuminates the potential for art to evolve beyond its original context, inspiring meaningful change across time and geography. The journey of the painting underscores the importance of interpretation, context, and activism in elevating an artwork's status. It serves as a testament to the enduring impact of visual symbols, highlighting their capacity to unite communities in advocacy for justice and peace.