In its final form, Guernica is an immense black and white, 3.5 metre (11 ft) tall and 7.8 metre (23 ft) wide mural painted in oil. In creating Guernica, Picasso had no interest in painting the non-representational abstraction typical of some of his contemporaries, such as Malevich. The mural presents a scene of death, violence, brutality, suffering, and helplessness without portraying their immediate causes. The choice to paint in black and white contrasts with the intensity of the scene depicted and invokes the immediacy of a newspaper photograph.
Hidden images in Guernica. This de-contrasting of the lower portion of the horse makes it easier to discern the hidden skull in profile in the painting. The bull's head is formed mostly by the bent front leg. The head's nose is formed by the leg's knee cap.
Guernica depicts suffering people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos.
The overall scene is within a room, where, at an open end on the left, a wide-eyed bull stands over a woman grieving over a dead child in her arms.
The center is occupied by a horse falling in agony as it had just been run through by a spear or javelin. The shape of a human skull forms the horse's nose and upper teeth.
Two "hidden" images formed by the horse appear in Guernica (illustrated to the right):
A human skull is overlayed on the horse's body.
A bull appears to gore the horse from underneath. The bull's head is formed mainly by the horse's entire front leg which has the knee on the ground. The leg's knee cap forms the head's nose. A horn appears within the horse's breast.
Under the horse is a dead, apparently dismembered soldier, his hand on a severed arm still grasps a shattered sword from which a flower grows.
A light bulb blazes in the shape of an eye over the suffering horse's head.
To the upper right of the horse, a frightened female figure, who seems to be witnessing the scenes before her, appears to have floated into the room through a window. Her arm, also floating in, carries a flame-lit lamp.
From the right, an awe-struck woman staggers towards the center below the floating female figure. She looks up blankly into the blazing light bulb.
Daggers that suggest screaming replace the tongues of the bull, grieving woman, and horse.
A bird, possibly a duck, stands on a shelf behind the bull in panic.
On the far right, a figure with arms raised in terror is entrapped by fire from above and below.
A dark wall with an open door defines the right end of the mural.
Symbolism in Guernica
Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two dominant elements -- the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso's career."
When pressed to explain them in Guernica, Picasso said, "...this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse... If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are." 
In "The Dream and Lie of Franco," a series of narrative sketches also created for the World's Fair, Franco is depicted as a monster that first devours his own horse and later does battle with an angry bull. Work on these illustrations began before the bombing of Guernica, and four additional panels were added, three of these relate directly to the Guernica mural.