On this day in 1937 the Basque town of Guernica was bombed by Fascist Italy's Aviazione Legionaria and the Condor Legion of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe in an action code named Operation Rügen; the action - later depicted in the painting by Pablo Picasso shown above - was one of the most reviled atrocities of the Spanish Civil War.
Three quarters of the town's buildings were utterly destroyed by 28 bombers during the raid, and virtually none escaped damage; the most reliable casualty figures place the dead at 1,654 with 889 wounded out of a population of 5-7,000.
Picasso first exhibited the massive mural (349 × 776 cm or 137.4 × 305.5 inches) he made to commemorate the victims at the Paris International Exposition in July 1937; following the Exposition the painting toured Europe, then was sent to America. For many years, Picasso kept it in his Paris apartment, but it had been a popular attraction at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for awhile when, in 1974, it was defaced by artist Tony Shafrazi, who spray-painted the words 'KILL LIES ALL' in red on it. The lacquered surface was quickly repaired, with no permanent damage to the work.
Picasso had been insistent prior to his 1973 death that he did not want the painting returned to Spain until Spain had itself returned to democracy; in 1981 MoMA reluctantly returned the work to Spain following the November 1975 death of Francisco Franco. Originally shown in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, since 1992 it has hung in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
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