Comparing Guernica and Third of May


I have been asked to compare Picasso’s Guernica and Goya’s Third of May.


Guernica - based on the tragic happenings to the town of Guernica.

Third of May - based on the executions of the Spanish patriots on the third of May.


Guernica - focal point - horse

Third of May - focal point - man in white


Guernica - semi-abstract

Third of May - naturalistic


Guernica - black, white and grey

Third of May - blue, black, white, yellow, green and brown.


Guernica - many distorted, curved lines

Third of May - no line used

Guernica - smooth texture

Third of May - rough texture

Form and Shape

Guernica - two-dimensional shapes; linear perspective

Third of May - three-dimensional forms used; linear and aerial perspective


In my opinion, both artists have done well in presenting their own feelings on their subject matter.

I have been asked to compare two paintings which are completely different in appearance, yet very similar in meaning. They are Picasso’s Guernica and Goya’s Third of May. Even though they were both painted during different art movements, they are both displayed in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

While looking at both paintings, I can’t help but feel sorry for the figures presented in them. Picasso’s Guernica shows figures reaching out in pain, reaching out in grief, and reaching out to help. The word that comes to mind when first looking at this painting is ‘shock’. In Third of May, however, innocent looking figures are being held at gun point by an armed force. The armed force is distinctly at an unfair advantage.

Guernica does not show reference to any use of shading to create three-dimensional forms and objects. However, he has overlapped two-dimensional 1figures. One can assume that he has placed the figures in various distances to create the illusion of there being foreground, middle ground and background. He has used linear perspective. Goya on the other hand has most definitely created a foreground, middle ground and background by using aerial and linear perspective. Figures have been overlapped and placed at various distances. The city in the background becomes undefined toward the horizon.

In Guernica, the dead soldier, the horse and the two women lunging forward are found in the foreground. The woman on fire and the woman mourning are found in the middle ground. The bull and the source of light are found in the background. In The Third of May, the dead man and the soldier are found in the foreground. The victims are found in the middle ground. The hill and the castle form the background.

Guernica is based on the brutal happenings in the small town of Guernica in Spain on the 28th of April 1937. The town was unexpectedly bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The bombing was a deliberate act of terror during the Spanish Civil War. Sharing the “unexpected attack” as a theme, Goya based his painting on one of the unfair executions of the Spanish patriots in the early hours of the morning on the 3rd of May from where the painting steals it’s name.

Guernica is a narrative work of art. It is based on how Picasso thought this message would best be conveyed. He has painted it according to how he imagined the scene to happen. Goya’s Third of May is also a narrative work of art. The painting is a visual representation of how Goya perceived this particular scene to happen.

Both paintings convey secretly hidden messages. Picasso has created a painting describing the way he felt his people were treated unjustly. He has painted it in such a way to emphasise the pain his people endured. The figures of the painting have been made in a misshapen fashion to make them look as if they have been physically abused and internally hurt. Goya has painted Third of May to depict what happened with the Spanish patriots. He illustrates it in such a way that one almost feels sorry for the victims (also done by Picasso).

In both Guernica and Third of May there is a definite light source provided. Guernica’s source of light is given by the eye-shaped sun with a light bulb at it’s centre. Third of May’s source of light is given by an easily noticeable lantern