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The Traveller and The Rose
June 1936, Santa Carmen, Andalucía
Kit Brown sat for a while on the hillside to write his journal. From above, Santa Carmen looked tranquil, like it was living in a previous century. It seemed miles away from the growing suspicion he had witnessed in the towns and cities. An old woman holding a piglet under her arm, hurried down the valley and shouted at the child behind her not to linger near the stranger. He heard a flock of goats thundering down the hill, throwing up the red dust of summer, stopping to search for vegetation. They passed close by, the shepherd ignoring him completely. Kit had been warned that they didn’t welcome strangers in Santa Carmen.
Guernica by Pablo Picasso
Exhibited Whitechapel Gallery
From Chapter Forty-Two The Traveller and The Rose
'Thank you for your contribution,’ the young woman said and Jack nodded. How could she possibly know of the ‘contribution’ they had made already? He caught up with Fernanda in the gallery and took her hand.
‘Don’t run off, pet. You’re not supposed to run indoors,’ but his eyes were focused on the massive canvas which faced him. Awe and sadness in equal measure overwhelmed him.
Picasso’s painting of the bombing of Guernica was stark and powerful. Jack moved closer clutching the child’s hand as a shield against falling into the deep well of loss which she had helped to heal. But here it was, raw and open in front of him, and he thought that maybe he shouldn’t have come. He was drawn into the vast monochrome image, the scale of the canvas overwhelming, and he couldn’t look away: women’s faces upturned and screaming to the heavens for release from the pain inflicted by German bombers. Inexcusable destruction rained on ordinary people; it was cruel beyond imagining.
More people were coming into the gallery and he could hear their murmurings about the painting; about the vast scale of the canvas whose edges could barely contain the suffering; about the war in Spain and people they knew who had signed up for the International Brigades; about those who had returned and those who had not. He wanted to shout at them and tell them of the reality. Instead, he scribbled on the back of the pamphlet and left it on the bench.
The Whitechapel Gallery, London January 1939
Death rains down from the sky
What are you doing to prevent this?
An Exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica
Opening by Clement Attlee
A pair of workman’s boots; to be sent to the front line
A pair of workman’s boots as blood money
Take you to a place beyond innocence
And into war.
War is never ‘just’, despite what we tell ourselves,
Later, from a place of safety,
After the ties that bind are shredded
And the boots worn out.
John Alexander Brown (AKA Jack)
From Chapter 42, The Traveller and The Rose