Spanish Painters and the Development of Art
Perhaps because of its geographical location adjacent France and near Italy, Spain has always enjoyed a central role in the development of art. Whether El Greco during the Spanish Renaissance, with his expressive conceptual art or the Spanish portrait master, Diego Velazquez, who was the “painter of painters,” Spain and Spaniards have been forces with which to be reckoned.
Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas
Such was certainly the case with Francisco Goya, who began his professional life as a brilliant portraitist, often receiving royal and other high-level commissions, but after falling seriously ill, became increasingly less optimistic about the human condition. His works moved into the dark side of politics, and showed brutality and social problems, thereby blazing a trail separating himself from his fellow early 19th century artists.
Modern Spanish Painter
Moving a century on, the foundation that Goya laid led to the building of the Modern Spanish Masters, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. All three were artistic geniuses who simultaneously used their abilities to advance social causes. The Spanish Civil War, lasting from 1936 to 1939 influenced all three, with Picasso and Miró opposing the eventual winner, General Francisco Franco, while Salvador Dalí remained friendly with Franco.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Of course, while politics was a huge influence, all three are known for their monumental influence in the history of art. Picasso was primarily known for his Blue Period and Cubism, although his artistic development was far-reaching past just those two.
Similarly, Miró began by being apolitical, but the Spanish Civil War drew him in. Although overshadowed by Picasso’s Guernica (which depicted the Franco-invited bombing of the civilians in the Spanish city of Guernica by Hitler’s Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War), Miró painted a work entitled The Reaper which took up the peasants’ cause in opposition to Franco’s fascism. Both were displayed in the Spanish pavilion in 1937’s International Exhibition in Paris.
Spanish Artists, Miro, Dali, Picasso and Romero
Miró was one of the most important artists in the development of Surrealism. That was in the early 1920s, nearly a century ago. Years later, Miró would recall that, “A new stage in my work began which had its source in music and nature. It was about the time that the war broke out. I felt a deep desire to escape. I closed myself within myself purposely. The night, music, and the stars began to play a major role in suggesting my paintings.” And so the rest of his life’s work was framed.
Enter Salvador Dalí. It is interesting that he is most far more known as a surrealist than Miró, despite the latter’s central role at the beginning of the movement. Dalí was nothing if not diversified in terms of artistic mediums, as he could find achievement in painting, sculptures, movies, jewelry, to name a few. His mind wandered continuously and he moved wherever he wished to go at that moment.
Reality was the central theme of the Spaniards. Picasso’s cubism viewed reality simultaneously from different perspectives, while Miró’s and Dalí’s surrealism totally rejected it. Not all Spaniards reject reality though. Today there is a Spanish Master of an entirely different type. This one wholly embraces reality by romanticizing it, particularly through the medium of pastel painting. Vicente Romero has several commonalities with Dalí—though definitely not in artistic style.
Dalí began to study art at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) in Madrid. He was expelled twice and never took the final examinations. His opinion was that he was more qualified than those who would have examined him. Vicente Romero went to the same school, but actually graduated.
Both were drawn to the alluring light and climate of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Dalí to Figueres and Vicente to Calonge, a very few miles away on the Costa Brava. While close geographically, their styles are at opposite ends of the universe.
Vicente’s art is soft and alluring, a refuge from the modern world. His art can be enjoyed for years without ever being interrupted by a jarring thought. An oasis on the wall.