Sculptor Anthony D. Padgett with Noel Hardy, the man behind the project. / STEPHANIE STURGES

Picasso returns to the English pub that rejected his drawing

He had no cash with him and offered to pay in kind but the owner said no. Now the village of Chiddingly is home to the UK's first sculpture of the genius artist

REGINA SOTORRÍO MALAGA.

The Six Bells, in the small English village of Chiddingly, has all the character of traditional British pubs. It is a stone construction from the 18th century, with posters and old signs all over the place which transport you to other times. Many of these were already on the walls when Pablo Picasso walked through the door.

That was in 1950, when the painter was already internationally famous, especially as the artist who painted Guernica, which by then had become a universal symbol of peace.

But in The Six Bells none of that mattered. He was a customer like any other, like all those who stopped off while passing through this spot in the Sussex countryside. That's why, when the Malaga-born artist said he would pay for his drink with a sketch, the employee on the other side of the bar was adamant: only cash would do from Picasso, just like everyone else.

The artist travelled to Sussex to visit his friends Lee Miller and Roland Penrose at Farley Farm

This anecdote has meant that a visit that would otherwise have gone unnoticed is now linked forever with the history of The Six Bells, because even a simple doodle on a napkin would be much more valuable than the price of a coffee if it had been done by Picasso.

The incident has appeared in numerous publications, including the reviews recommending the pub on platforms like Tripadvisor. And now, more than 70 years later, Picasso has returning to the neighbourhood of the pub where his sketch was rejected.

Just round the corner from The Six Bells, in the Millennium Sculpture Garden, the UK's first sculpture dedicated to the genius from Malaga has just been unveiled.

With the dove of peace

Two faces of Picasso, sculpted by Anthony D. Padgett, protrude from each side of a wooden block made of oak, topped by a dove of peace. They represent the two trips Picasso made to the United Kingdom: the first in 1919 with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes and the second in 1950 when he went to speak at the World Peace Congress in Sheffield.

The Picasso sculpture was unveiled at a well-attended event by Gavin Henderson CBE, the patron of the Millennium Oak Sculpture and Garden Trust, assisted by pupils from the village primary school.

It was either just before or just after the World Peace Congress that Picasso made a special visit to Chiddingly. A few months earlier two of his best friends, the photographer Lee Miller and artist Roland Penrose, had moved there after buying the picturesque Farley Farm, which is now a cultural and art centre open to the public.

A walk to the pub

The Six Bells pub is a pleasant walk from Farley Farm and it is done today by many of the tourists who come to see the art collection Miller and Penrose built up over decades of their friendship with Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Max Ernst and Joan Miró, among others.

And that is what Picasso did in November 1950 when he fancied a drink in the local pub. When he got there and went to order he discovered he had no money in his pocket and offered a small sketch instead; this was something he had done on numerous occasions before, as a means of payment or to say thank you for something.

But it didn't work at The Six Bells. The answer was a firm no, so he had to go back to the house for some cash, the present owner of the pub, Paul Newman, said in a report by the BBC.

When asked by the reporter whether he would accept Picasso's offer if he came into the pub today, he answered that he would, if he recognised the artist. And then added that he probably would even if he didn't recognise him: "Why not - just for the cheek."