Picasso's Studies for 'Guernica' at Whetstone Station
Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery (36 Bridge St., Brattleboro) may seem an unlikely spot to see limited-edition prints of studies for Picasso's Guernica, but the story has one of those "all in the family" twists we'll share a little later....
Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard by birth, completed his masterpiece in June 1937 at his home on Rue des Grands Augustins, in Paris. Using a palette of blue, black, and white, this oil on canvas is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.
Standing at 11 feet 5 inches tall and 25 feet 6 inches wide, the mural was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italian warplanes, at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. It shows the suffering of people wrenched by violence and chaos. Prominent in the composition are a gored horse and a bull, both important symbols in Spanish culture.
The mural was acquired by the government of the Spanish Republic upon its completion and was exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris before touring to other venues around the world. The painting brought worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War and was used to raise funds for Spanish war relief. When World War II broke out, the artist decided that the painting should remain in the custody of New York's Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping until the conflict ended. In 1958 Picasso extended the loan of the painting to MoMA for an indefinite period, until such time that democracy had been restored in Spain. The work finally returned to his home country in 1981. The mural can be seen today at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid.
While considering design options for Guernica, Picasso created 42 studies of mural details. Many of these experimental pieces show that he considered a much brighter palette before settling on a muted one—perhaps he felt the viewers' distress level would have been too difficult to manage if the destruction and suffering were so graphic? The originals of these studies are in the Prado Museum, also in Madrid. Apparently they were observed to be fading over the years so were moved to a darkened room to prevent further deterioration.
At some point, UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—authorized the limited-edition printing of 1,937 sets of the Guernica studies, corresponding to the year of the mural's creation. The set of prints from which the exhibit at Whetstone Station was selected belong to Heide Bredfeldt and Bill Oates, parents of the Whetstone's owner, David Hiler. Bill explains that they were gifted their set by the French printer, whose two sons had enjoyed homestays with them while attending The Putney School. Quelle bonne fortune!
The Guernica prints are in a variety of locations around the restaurant interior. Stop in for a drink and a sample of the Whetstone's eclectic menu in March and discreetly tour this unique exhibit of work by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
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