Studies for Guernica, itinerant exhibition, USA (1952-1956)
In 1952, the Department of Travelling Exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) organised the show Studies for Guernica, which contained three strands: the preparatory studies, seven of the photographs Dora Maar took on the painting’s different stages of progress, and the renowned postscripts, which Picasso painted with Guernica already mounted in the Spanish Pavilion, following on from and developing the themes in the painting. The exhibition visited twenty-two venues across the length and breadth of the USA, mainly art schools and university museums. However, the Guernica original did not make and trip and was displayed in a reduced-size photographic reproduction.
From 1931, the Travelling Exhibitions Department at MoMA worked tirelessly in its mission to disseminate contemporary art in cities and outlying venues, organising exhibitions to tour the USA and Canada. One such proposal was Studies for Guernica, made up of 47 works presented independently from one another whilst also reflecting how Picasso’s painting was created, revealing the major transformations, both in the work’s composition and its figures. Moreover, Dora Maar’s photographs demonstrated how in the genesis of Guernica mythological allusions surfaced, such as Pegasus, only for the painting to be freed from all narrative mechanisms, becoming emotionally and expressively charged with personages and symbols.
As a display of its pedagogical volition, the exhibition was mounted mainly in schools and university art departments, underscoring its role as a complementary activity to students’ learning, while the questionnaires handed out to the public demonstrated the importance of the show to art education. The exhibition toured in cities like Miami, Cincinnati, Cranbrook (New Jersey), Kansas City and Ithaca, where it was held at Cornell University, signalling the end of the exhibition in 1956.
The original painting did not travel with the related works this time around due to the nature of the show, and for conservation reasons and the length of the tour, which also coincided with other exhibitions in New York, São Paulo and different cities in Europe — shows which did, however, feature the original Guernica. That said, as an inescapable component of its curatorial discourse, the touring exhibition included a blown-up photograph of the painting, which, as well as making up for its lack of physical presence also ensured its place in the exhibition narrative. After Studies for Guernica, the studies were sent to Belgium to make up and set in motion the touring exhibition Guernica, avec 60 études. At the art academy of the Museum of Cranbrook (New Jersey), the starting point of the tour, the exhibition was programmed to coincide with another Pablo Picasso exhibition, also itinerant, organised by MoMA: A Half-Century of Picasso, a reduced edition of MoMA’s Picasso: His Graphic Art, which employed prints and drawings from the museum to focus on Picasso’s career spanning the period from 1904 to 1951.