Nelson A. Rockefeller Jr. has loaned the San Antonio Museum of Art a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica from his family’s private collection. The tapestry is now hanging in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art at the museum. Rockefeller traveled to San Antonio this week for the formal unveiling.
Seventy-five years ago, Picasso began painting Guernica in immediate response to the horrific bombing of civilians in the Basque town of the same name during the Spanish Civil War. Measuring over 25-feet long, this powerful cubist work incorporates haunting images of writhing women, children, animals and destroyed buildings swirling around two central figures of a horse and bull—Spain’s most enduring symbols. Subsequent generations worldwide have seen Guernica as a universal expression of the atrocities of war. The original painting now hangs in the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, and is visited by millions of people each year.
By the end of World War II, the fame of the Guernica painting was so great that Picasso commissioned a pair of Aubusson-trained French weavers to create three woven copies. Rockefeller bought the first tapestry created directly from Picasso. For many years it hung at the United Nations in New York City at the entrance to the Security Council.
While the painting had been more monochromatic with blacks, whites and shades of gray, in the tapestry Picasso worked with the weavers and introduced shades of yellow and brown as well. As Rockefeller stated, “The subject had been sensitively and brilliantly adapted to the different medium, and the result was a stunningly beautiful work of art in its own right.”