Bulls, Matadors and Dancers: a Spanish Stereotype?
Most cliché-ridden notions of late 18th to early 19th century Spanish paintings consist solely of vivacious bullfights with gallant matadors, dancing flamenco ladies, or precise portraiture of the aristocracy. While these features were incorporate, in actuality there had been a much wider range of style and content surrounding the Spanish culture. Breaking the mold of precise painting style and brushwork, some artworks of this time occasionally utilized a rough or more aggressive technique; the focus was more on invoking an emotional response or to give an essence of movement.
Combining these works from artists like Francisco Goya, a popular artist who was highly concerned with the emotional and physical implications of the then war stricken Spain, we can explore the culture from their emotional point of view. During this period, the Romanticist movement was becoming popular as a form of reaction to the sometimes tragic events surrounding the political strife. While not all romanticist painters of this time where trying to depict the effects of war, others were concerned with the culture: architecturally and socially.
From the variety of brushstrokes, bright colors, and subject matter this collaboration of paintings leads one to question their preconceived notions of Spanish art during that time. It also, compels them to relate emotionally to the culture rather than in a technically formal facet.
Arabs Resting, Eugenio Lucas, 1817–1870
oil on canvas, 47.31
During this time, the Arab Muslims had been migrating into the southern part of Spain. Gathering from the title and the historical time period of the piece, this is a depiction of the difficulties and hardships of the Muslim immigrants. By Lucas’s stylized technique he avoids give a face to these people; instead he invokes the weary atmosphere of the tired travelers.
The Third of May 1808, Francisco de Goya, 1746–1828
oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Del Prado
From the first look, this painting conveys the heartbreaking execution of Spanish men in resistance to Napoleon’s armies. It’s slightly aggressive brushstrokes and muted colors help portray the somber scene. Right of the cuff, this breaks the mold of the beautiful ideal of what a Spanish painting can be about. It invokes the sorrow for martyrdom and the immense violations of the murdering of people.
A City on a Rock, Style of Goya , 19th century
oil on canvas, 29.100.12
Although this painting is attributed to Goya, it has now been considered a possible pastiche from one of his followers. Never the less this painting offers another insight into the war stricken Spain, reinventing the terror of war with his aggressive brushwork and dramatic lighting. It even touches on the fantasy realm with the incorporation of winged human figures.
Bullfight in a Divided Ring, Attributed to Goya, 1746–1828
oil on canvas, 22.181
Even though this painting by Goya does, in fact, encompass what an average person would envision a Spanish artwork to look like, it does still utilize a diverse style of rendering. This continues to place the focus on the emotional aspects of the bustling crowds and fighting matadors rather than a simple study of a bull’s anatomy. The brushstrokes also show up as somewhat stylized in this painting.
Interior of the Church of St. Jacques, Louvain Genaro Pérez Villaamil, 1807–1854
oil on canvas, 58.129
Offering a slightly different look into Spanish culture, this piece highlights the religious architecture found in the Church of St. Jacques. Exhibiting a stylized treatment of line and form, Villaamil reveals is Romanticized ideals towards his artwork; which can be are similar to styles attributed Goya. This work is focused more on the detailed architecture then the people it is encompassing.
Masquerade, Mariano Fortuny Marsal, 1838–1874
oil on canvas, 26.186.2
With the use of loose brushstrokes, Mariano extracts a delightful scene of a masquerade party. Similar to the Resting Arabs by Eugenio Lucas, the facial features of these characters are not the focus of this painting. Rather, the artist is creating an atmosphere of flirtation and merriment in his technique and coloring.