The Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne became the Second Republic’s most visible and widely publicized announcement of the humanizing role of art against rising violence, both in Spain and the rest of Europe. The design by Josep Lluís Sert and Luis Lacasa stood in direct contrast to the intimidating monumentality of the Soviet and German Pavilions that were staged face-to-face, in direct confrontation, nearby. For Spain and the rest of the world on display at the 1937 Exposition, it was clear that artists played a pivotal role in communicating both long-standing, transcendental ideas about art, culture, and nation as well as the more immediate, and contested ideas of their sponsoring governments.
Pablo Picasso’s Guernica was the Pavilion’s most famous commissioned work, however it was not the only piece to manifest the com- plexities of balancing experimentation in the arts with political commitment. In addition to prominently showcasing works by artists like Julio González, Alberto Sánchez, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, and José Gutiérrez Solana, the Pavilion was designed to function as a platform for the complex interweaving of architecture, painting, illustration, photography, propaganda and the popular arts. With the prominent use of photography through the panels designed by Josep Renau, a script was laid from start to finish to guide visitors through a tour of republican Spain that highlighted the positive role of culture, education and popular traditions in countering the devastating effects of the Civil War.