Visit the MFAH beginning February 24 to see a tapestry version of Pablo Picasso’s renowned Guernica painting. The tapestry is part of the exhibition Picasso Black and White, which features a selection of Picasso’s foremost monochrome paintings, drawings, and sculptures. In addition to the tapestry, the show includes three studies that Picasso completed for Guernica.
Picasso painted Guernica in 1937 as a reaction to the Nazi bombing of Guernica, a Basque town in Spain. The bombing destroyed most of the town, leaving only the main cathedral, assembly house, and an oak tree standing. News of the massacre soon reached Paris, where more than a million people flooded the streets on May 1 to protest the atrocity. Journalists and biographers begged Picasso for public statements during the Spanish Civil War, but Picasso preferred to let Guernica be his voice. The famously black-and-white painting now resides permanently in Madrid at the Museo Reina Sofía, Spain’s national museum of modern art.
The fame of the Guernica painting was so great that Picasso commissioned a pair of Aubusson weavers, René and Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach, to create three woven copies. Each weaving took about six months to complete. The simple geometries and pure colors of the painting transferred readily to the loom.
The late Nelson A. Rockefeller, a longtime friend of Picasso’s and a collector of the artist’s work, purchased one of the three tapestries in 1955. “The subject had been sensitively and brilliantly adapted to the different medium,” Rockefeller once stated, “and the result was a stunningly beautiful work of art in its own right.”
Rockefeller went on to serve as governor of New York and U.S. vice president. The majority of his art collection is on public display at the Rockefeller country estate, but the Guernica tapestry hung in the family's home in Albany from 1956 to 1984. The tapestry was then displayed outside the Security Council Chamber at the United Nations from 1985 to 2009.
Even if you aren’t able to see the Guernica painting in Madrid, you can catch the tapestry up close at the MFAH this spring!
Click the links for extra connections to Picasso’s Guernica.
► The blind can “see” Guernica in braille at the Museo Reina Sofía.
► One of the attractions in the town of Guernica is a tile version of the painting on a wall.
► Large crowds continue to flock to view the original painting in the museum gallery in Madrid.