Picasso's art was a barometer of Picasso's life. He was particularly sensitive to women around him (all great art is, in a certain measure, autobiographical). The art style that corresponded to his first wife, Russian dancer Olga Koklova, was Neoclassicism. Surrealism, especially the more politicized later one, was an antidote to him when their relationship soured in the late twenties, early thirties (his work from this period is full of vagina dentatta and mantislike figures). Even if Picasso wasn't a bonafide Surrealist he participated in the exhibition Vingt-cinq peintres contemporains (twenty five contemporary painters) in 1925 and other Surrealist activities like La Révolution surrealiste (issue # 1: December, 1924) and Minotaure magazine (issue # 1: June, 1933). In 1941 he wrote a Surrealist play: Le désir attrapé par la queue (desire caught by the tail). Before that, he wrote a Surrealist text that was meant to be published with the two Songe et Mensonge de Franco etchings (these, incidentally, would be sold, on behalf of the Spanish Republic, at the International Paris Exhibition in 1937; the images should be cut and sold as postcards, but Picasso saw the narrative flow that linked them and prevented the cutting):
Here's a site with images from the Spanish pavilion in Paris' 1937 World Exhibition:
General Francisco Franco led a civil war against the Spanish Republic's Popular Front. I don't have many new things to say about Songe et Mensonge de Franco's meaning, so, I'll let Juan Antonio Ramírez (and a couple of others) do most of the job for me (Guernica, Electa, 1999: 27 - 33): "As some [scholars] already said, the title alludes to Goya ["The Sleep of Reason Creates Monsters"] and the Spanish literature of the Siglo de Oro [the golden century: the 16th][...]. This gives us ground to decipher the scene as an horrendous buffoonery, a nightmare peopled by the ridiculous and pathetic monsters that the military sublevation unleashed. All the panels seem to describe the devastating effects of the Francoist "crusade" against the Spanish people. The antihero in the first etching is a deformed being, a kind of tuberculoid-worm that rides on a disemboweled horse (as they were frequently seen in those days' corridas) carrying a religious banner. [...] [H]e also carries a sword upright (the Fascist Francoist field talked about the "sword of Christianity"), from which handle hangs a rope, and wears a crown with a crescent moon (an allusion to North African Francoist Moorish troops). The horse and the sun smile sardonically [the Fascist hymn was Cara al sol - facing the sun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQcSTGz3XyY]." The description continues, but I prefer Elisabeth Francesconi's interpretation of the second panel, here: http://smu.edu/ecenter/discourse/Francesconi.htm She says: "Picasso’s depiction of Franco walking a tightrope in the second frame resembles a specific scene in Goya’s Disasters series entitled "When Will the Rope Break" [...] giving evidence of his exposure to Goya’s works. Goya had placed a religious figure with a high status in the Church on a fraying, suspended rope. Under the leader, he added a crowd that appears to be shouting at and angry with the man on the rope." Martínez views this as Franco's crossing from Africa into Europe to attack an idealized image of Spain in the next panel; he then continues: "The monster is (fourth panel) a travesty of the traditional Spanish maja [beaut] with her peineta [back comb], mantilla [shawl] and fan with the proverbial image of the Virgen del Pilar." (Franco's huge penis in the second panel is, according to Patricia Failing - cf. link above - a "sign [...] of sexual prowess as a symbol of military might.") In the fifth and sixth panels the monster attacks a bull (another symbol of Spain) and worships money (one duro was five pesetas). In the last strip of etching one the guts of the horse are transformed into serpents; Franco tries to (according to Martínez) sexually assault a winged horse (after loosing the serpents that were eating him up from the inside the horse became Pegasus, another symbol of Spain). In the end the monster is still facing the sun, but he now rides a not so noble animal: a pig (a piggy bank: those who pay him). Did Picasso imply that the Spanish people needed to be exorcised to expel Fascism? What seems to be true is that, according to Martínez again, the Pegasus' wings (freedom, of course) grew out from the wound inflicted by the monster on the horse's flank (it's the same wound that we'll see in Guernica). The second etching repeats some of the same topics that we analyzed until now (namely the fight between the bull - the Spanish people - and the aristocratic horse - metamorphosed into a negative symbol again: with the guts, spilled out by the bull, came the now familiar symbols of Fascism: the sword, the national banner, the religious standard). The last four panels show war's real victims: the civilians. Guernica's population was just the beginning. Millions would follow... all over the world...
PS To level things up (since I posted Cara al sol above), here's the great Mexican singer Lila Downs, singing El Quinto Regimiento (the fifth regiment):