The Watcher
© Estate of the Artist c/o Lefevre Fine Art Ltd, London

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The Watcher about 1937
Burra visited Spain on several occasions in the 1930s and was deeply impressed by the paintings by Goya and Bosch that he saw at the Prado museum in Madrid. However, although the extremist politics of the Spanish Civil War, that were intensifying in Spain and being felt around Europe, satisfied Burra’s interest in theatrical sensation, the increasing violence provoked a new turn in his work. Unusual for progressive artists of the period, Burra was pro-Franco, and his reaction to the violence was not ideological or moralistic but instead featured a sinister cast of characters - skeletons and menacing, cloaked figures, inhabiting a decaying world of ruined buildings - an exploration into the effect of the escalating violence and suffering on the people.

Glossary Open

Spanish Civil War

A war in Spain that began following an uprising in Morocco in 1936. It was fought between the Republicans and the Nationalists, led by General Franco, who declared victory in 1939, and remained as head of state until his death in 1975. The bombing of the town of Guernica on 26 April 1937 was the subject of a major painting by Pablo Picasso.

Spanish Civil War


  • Acc. No. GMA 1115
  • Medium Watercolour and pencil on paper
  • Size 102.00 x 67.00 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1970