Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ignacio Zuloaga

Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945) was a Spanish painter descended from a long line of artisans. I was scrolling through a collection of his works, mainly portraits of women, thinking that they were all sort of ok, when I was brought up short by this self portrait of 1931. Wow.

That led me to do some more searching, and I found other works of his that I liked. I also discovered his remarkable family, 11 noted artists and artisans across five generations. If I have this right, it was his great-grandfather, a royal armorer, who made this magnificent dagger. Another kinsman was a clockmaker who made the clock that sat in Napoleon III's study. The family has a fascinating web site where you can see pictures of works in many media by various Zuloagas.

But back to Ignacio. As young man he tried to rebel against his family tradition through a more "relevant" career, so he went to the university to study mining engineering. He dropped out after one semester and went back to art. But he chose to be a painter, much to the disappointment of his metalsmith father. He traveled to Paris at the age of 19 and met the luminaries of the Paris scene, exhibiting a painting at the Salon of 1890. He took no classes, either there or in Rome where he spent much of the next year. His early paintings look clumsy to me; above is the first painting of his that I like, El picador El Coriano, 1897. In the mid 1890s Zuloaga took time off from panting to enter bullfighting school, and he painted many bullfighting scenes.

Candida in Yellow. This is Zuloaga's cousin, whom he painted 24 times; I think this is early 1900s.

Around this time Zuloaga painted many landscapes, some of which are quite remarkable. Above,  Paisaje de Navarra.  These works embroiled him in that weird Spanish thing, accused by various critics of being insufficiently Spanish. His work was too French, his colors too Italian. This directed at a man who had been to bullfighting school! I never understand what these arguments are about, and I can only imagine that because Zuloaga had not been to art school and had exhibited his first paintings in Paris and Rome he was not sufficiently tied into the Spanish art world. But he was able to make a living as a painter anyway, and, I think, his work got ever better over the course of his life.

Paisaje de Antequera, 1923.

Angustias with a Fur Collar.

Portrait of Lucienne Bréval. Another work I can't find a date for, but what an amazing painting. I guess 1930s.

A Dominican Priest, 1937.

Calle de una vieja ciudad castellana.

The Zuloagas were all notably conservative in their politics, not surprising considering that they worked so closely for kings and great nobles. Ignacio became a fervid fascist, something that is not mentioned on the family web site. He painted what is said to be a very flattering portrait of Franco -- sadly, I can't find an image. This self portrait of 1942 certainly has a Franquista look. Once again I am reminded that the many of the artists I admire were fascists, or at least cranky reactionaries. But Franco is gone, and the beauty left by Ignacio and the other Zuloagas endures.

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