The San Antonio Museum of Art will exhibit Nelson Rockefeller’s Picassos: Tapestries Commissioned for Kykuit December 20, 2014-March 8, 2015. This is the only time that so many of the commissioned Picasso tapestries (fourteen of eighteen) have been exhibited together outside of Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate in Westchester County, NY, and property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Commissioned by Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979) between 1958 and 1975, the tapestries were woven entirely by hand by Madame J. de la Baume Dürrbach at her studio in southern France. Enormous in scale—some as large as 9 ft. x 12 ft.—these woven works of art took between three and six months to complete. Picasso collaborated with the weaver on the color choices of many of them and approved the final weaving. The artist verified his involvement by signing the backs of photographs of the tapestries.
One of Rockefeller’s missions was to share the enjoyment and appreciation of the arts. Much more durable and easier to transport than paintings, these tapestries─vibrant translations─of great works by Picasso can be viewed by a much larger audience. This December, the majority of these works─feats of imagination, craftsmanship, negotiation, and collaboration─will travel from Kykuit, to San Antonio.
Three of the tapestries were based on paintings from Rockefeller’s own collection: Interior with a Girl Drawing, Pitcher and Bowl of Fruit, and Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier). Four of the tapestries were based on paintings from the Museum of Modern Art’s collection─Harlequin, Three Musicians, The Studio, and Night Fishing at Antibes.
Nelson A. Rockefeller believed in the transformative power of art and his love of modern art was encouraged by his mother, one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art. Rockefeller said, “I was always most strongly drawn to the work of the great European pioneers of modern art…Of all of them, Picasso was always my favorite. His restless vitality and constant search for powerful new forms of expression, combined with his superb craftsmanship and sense of color and composition, have remained an unending source of joy and satisfaction to me.”
A catalogue with color plates of the tapestries and essays treating the history of the commissions, the original paintings, and the correspondence between Rockefeller, Picasso, and the weavers, will be published to accompany the exhibition. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s daughter Ann donated much of her father’s Mexican folk art collection to the San Antonio Museum of Art in 1985. It is housed in the Museum’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art Center.