After Picasso: Forty Years of His Art concluded at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, the exhibition set off on a tour around different US cities from 1941 to 1943, although the original Guernica did not feature at every venue. Throughout those three years, the exhibition materialised into four different editions, with changes made to the works displayed and the exhibition title. The third of these editions bore the name Picasso: Epochs in His Art, its uniqueness lying in the display of a photographic reproduction of Guernica.

The tour of the exhibition Picasso: Forty Years of His Art, which took in more than twenty American cities and got under way after it had ended at the New York museum, was in response to Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s education project to disseminate contemporary art, centred on the MoMA collection, in cities, universities and outlying museums in the country. The third edition of the exhibition, Picasso: Epochs in His Art, and the next and last one under the name Picasso, pioneered the display of a photographic reproduction of Guernica so as to utilise its iconic potential to maintain curatorial discourse, thus overcoming the difficulties involved in moving the painting. With the backdrop of the Second World War, the painting operated as a symbol of peace for a museum which upheld, through its policies, a pedagogical discourse on art and aligned itself with the exemplary message transmitted by the US government, which had entered the war just months before following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Over the course of seven months, the exhibition toured seven cities — stopping at art centres and education centres, including Durham, where it was mounted in Duke University, Kansas City and Milwaukee. Not only did it feature a replica photograph of Guernica, but replica images of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) and Absinthe Drinker (1903) were also displayed as it endeavoured to show Picasso’s key works more expansively than the material value of their presence. The original works included emblematic pieces such as Ma Jolie (1911–1912) and some of the Guernica studies.