Spanish art  

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Spanish art has been an important contributor to Western art and Spain has produced many famous and influential artists including Velázquez, Goya and Picasso. Spanish art was particularly influenced by Italy and France during the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, but Spanish art has often had very distinctive characteristics, partly explained by the Moorish heritage in Spain (especially in Andalusia), and through the political and cultural climate in Spain during the Counter-Reformation and the subsequent eclipse of Spanish power under the Bourbon dynasty.

The prehistoric art of Spain had many important periods: it was one of the main centres of European Upper Paleolithic art and the rock art of the Spanish Levant in the subsequent periods. In the Iron Age north-western Spain was a centre for Celtic art, and Iberian sculpture has a distinct style, partly influenced by coastal Greek settlements. Spain was conquered by the Romans by 200 BC and Rome was rather smoothly replaced by the Germanic Visigoths in the 5th century AD, who represented only a small ruling class, who soon Christianized. The relatively few remains of Visigothic art and architecture show an attractive and distinct version of wider European trends, but the Muslim conquest of most of Spain in the 8th century was a massive disruption and transformation. Over the following centuries the wealthy courts of Al-Andaluz produced many works of exceptional quality, culminating in the Alhambra in Granada, right at the end of Muslim Spain.

Meanwhile, the parts of Spain remaining Christian, or that were re-conquered, were prominent in Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art, especially in Catalonia. Late Gothic Spanish art flourished under the unified monarchy in the Isabelline Gothic and Plateresque styles, and the already strong traditions in painting and sculpture began to benefit from the influence of imported Italian artists. The enormous wealth that followed the flood of American gold saw lavish spending on the arts in Spain, much of it directed at religious art in the Counter-Reformation. Spanish control of the leading centre of North European art, Flanders, from 1483 and also of the Kingdom of Naples from 1548, both ending in 1714, had a great influence on Spanish art, and the level of spending attracted artists from other areas, such as El Greco, Rubens and (from a safe distance) Titian in the Spanish Golden Age, as well as great native painters such as Diego Velázquez, José de Ribera, Francisco Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

The decline of the Habsburg monarchy brought this period to an end, and Spanish art in the 18th and early-19th century was generally less exciting, with the huge exception of Francisco Goya. The rest of 19th-century Spanish art followed European trends, generally at a conservative pace, until the Catalan movement of Modernisme, which initially was more a form of Art Nouveau. Picasso dominates Spanish Modernism in the usual English sense, but Juan Gris, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró are other leading figures.




Luis de Morales was called by his contemporaries "The Divine Morales", because of his skill and the shocking realism of his paintings.


El Greco is known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.


Seventeenth-century Spanish art

Francisco Zurbarán is known for the forcible, realistic use of chiaroscuro in his religious paintings and still-lifes.

Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he created scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners. In many portraits, Velázquez gave a dignified quality to less fortunate members of society like beggars and dwarfs. In contrast to these portraits, the gods and goddesses of Velázquez tend to be portrayed as common people, without divine characteristics. Besides the forty and 22 portraits of Philip by Velázquez, he painted portraits of other members of the royal family, including princes, infantas (princesses), and queens.

18th century: Goya

Francisco Goya was a portraitist and court painter to the Spanish Crown, a chronicler of history, and, in his unofficial work, a revolutionary and a visionary. Goya painted the Spanish royal family, including Charles IV of Spain and Ferdinand VII. His themes range from merry festivals for tapestry, draft cartoons, to scenes of war, fighting and corpses. In his early stage, he painted draft cartoons as templates for tapestries and focused on scenes from everyday life with vivid colours. During his lifetime, Goya also made several series of "grabados", etchings which depicted the decadence of society (Caprichos) and the horrors of war (The Disasters of War). His most famous painting series are the Black Paintings, painted at the end of his life. This series features works that are obscure in both colour and meaning, producing uneasiness and shock.

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

20th Century

Picasso's Blue Period (1901–1904),which consisted of somber, blue-tinted paintings was influenced by a trip through Spain. The Museu Picasso in Barcelona features many of Picasso's early works, created while he was living in Spain, as well as the extensive collection of Jaime Sabartés, Picasso's close friend from his Barcelona days who, for many years, was Picasso's personal secretary. There are many precise and detailed figure studies done in his youth under his father's tutelage, as well as rarely seen works from his old age that clearly demonstrate Picasso's firm grounding in classical techniques. Picasso presented the most durable homage to Velázquez in 1957 when he recreated Las Meninas in his characteristically cubist form. While Picasso was worried that if he copied Velázquez's painting, it would be seen only as a copy and not as any sort of unique representation, he proceeded to do so, and the enormous work—the largest he had produced since Guernica in 1937—earned a position of relevance in the Spanish canon of art.

Salvador Dalí was one of the most important painters of the 20th century. In 1922 Dalí moved in to the "Residencia de Estudiantes" (Students' Residence) in Madrid. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention, and mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics. Upon Francisco Franco's coming to power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Dalí came into conflict with his fellow Surrealists over political beliefs. As such Dalí was officially expelled from the predominantly Marxist Surrealist group. Dalí's response to his expulsion was "Surrealism is me." Andre Breton coined the anagram "Avida Dollars", by which he referred to Dalí after the period of his expulsion; the Surrealists henceforth would speak of Dalí in the past tense, as if he were dead. The surrealist movement and various members thereof (such as Ted Joans) would continue to issue extremely harsh polemics against Dalí until the time of his death and beyond. The fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco drew criticism from progressives and many other artists. In 1959, Andre Breton asked Dalí to represent Spain in the Homage to Surrealism Exhibition, celebrating the Fortieth Anniversary of Surrealism, among the works of Joan Miró, Enrique Tábara, and Eugenio Granell. In 1960 Dalí began work on the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí in his home town of Figueres. In 1982 King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed on Dalí the title Marquis of Púbol.

Post WW2

In the post-War period, the Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies became famous for his abstract works, many of which use very thick textures and the incorporation of non-standard materials and objects. Tapies has won several international awards for his works.

See also

Goya, Spanish film, Spanish literature

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