THE FRENCH WEAVER AND THE MASTER
Guernica by Jacqueline de la Baume-Dürrbach, a great transposition” from the exhibition catalogue:
“The tapestry woven by Jacqueline de la Baume-Dürrbach has a very specific role in Guernica’s international resonance. Picasso was an insatiable creator, always driven by a constant search for new forms of expression, and he had been interested ever since the Thirties in the transposition of his paintings into tapestries. He had already commissioned many reproductions woven by a number of laboratories (Aubusson, les Gobelins, Cauquil-Prince) when he met, in 1951, René e Jacqueline Dürrbach; that was the beginning of a long creative friendship that lasted until Picasso died, marked by the creation of 27 tapestries inspired by his works. The peculiarity of the « Atelier Cavalaire » tapestries was their ability to maintain the energy of the stroke and the vigor of the drawing, the strength and authenticity of the painting in a new material. A « search for truth » characterized the work Jacqueline de la Baume-Dürrbach: she would take care of everything, from the cartoon, to the cast, to the weaving. Her collaboration with Picasso was close, especially for the cartoon, the phase where the painted work becomes a woven work. The cartoon, always approved and sometimes even retouched by Picasso, was the meeting point between two techniques and two artistic sensibilities, a shared creative support that – once approved by the painter – allowed for the beginning of the weaving process.
Guernica, emblematic mural composition, turned out to be perfect for this kind of reproduction. This was the second work by Atelier Cavalaire in collaboration with Picasso. Its creation began in January 1955, following a method that would not change: Jacqueline would cut a cartoon of the same size of the tapestry from a poster of the work provided by Picasso, then trace a triangulation acting as reference for the change in scale of the drawing. For Guernica, Jacqueline had the chance to complete the cartoon right when the painting was presented at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, in 1955. Many morning sessions focused on this adjustment, before the cartoon was approved by Picasso; then, 6 months of weaving began, using 11 shades of woolen threads on a cotton chain. The work, presented in November 1955 at Musée Grimaldi in Antibes, slightly smaller than the original, made Picasso extremely happy; Nelson Rockefeller immediately added it to his collection in the USA. Atelier Cavalaire made two more copies from this cartoon, one in 1976 bought by the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar (exhibited for the first time in the Basque Country in 2007, in Bayonne and Bilbao), and a second one in 1985, now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Gunma, Japan. In 1985 the first tapestry, donated to the UN by the Rockefeller family, was located at the entrance of the Security Council, symbolizing the mission of an organization determined to “save future generations from the scourge of war”.”
Jacques Battesti, Preservation Officer at the Basque and Bayonne History Museum