Oct 27, 2016

Art in Granada and Granada in Art

Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada

The exhibition revolves around two ideas: the uniqueness of the art in Granada and the uniqueness of Granada in art, in other words what this city has contributed to art as a center for creation and as a place for inspiration.

A new order, a new art
When the Nazari kingdom disappeared in 1492, Granada was incorporated into the Castilian crown and fell squarely within the orbit of the western Christian world, which meant a radical transformation of its society and culture. An extensive plan of civil and ecclesiastical construction began, sponsored by the monarchy and the nobility, images of which needed to be provided as a matter of urgency. However, local artists could not respond to these needs and to an art form that was completely alien to them, so the most immediate solution was to resort to importing artworks and artists from elsewhere, both Hispanic and foreign. This section is, therefore, a synthesis of the development of art in Granada before the emergence of art that is essentially of Granada. It covers an extensive period of time, from the late fifteenth century to the first decades of the seventeenth.

This is a key work in the introduction of the Renaissance aesthetics in Granada. As impressive as its stature is the rich polychromy in which the gold and the classic sgraffito themes stand out.

This work is a clear example of what was learned by artists who traveled to Italy to complete their training.

The Virgin is heavily influenced by the classical Roman models reworked by Italian sculptors such as Donatello.

Just looking at this painting is enough to tell us that its author had firsthand knowledge of Italy, the ruins of ancient Rome, and the ways of the great Renaissance artists, Michelangelo and Raphael.

In this Immaculate Conception, Sanchez Cotan follows the iconographic guidelines established by Francisco Pacheco in "The Art of Painting", according to which the Virgin appears surrounded by symbols of the Litany of Loreto, which make reference to her glories and virtues.

Pedro de Raxis would be one of the artists to introduce Baroque naturalism, still in its infancy. In this work the keys of theatricality and artifice that would distinguish this movement can be observed.

The master painter and sculptor Alonso Cano
Painter, sculptor, draftsman, and architect. Multifaceted and controversial. Alonso Cano's way of working led to a profound renewal in the arts and provided a continuous point of reference in the second half of this century for Granada, and this influence endured for centuries in the work of a multitude of artists. His work is separated from its distinctly baroque contemporaries as it is based on the classical principles of simplicity and compositional balance, undoubtedly influenced by his knowledge of King Philip IV's collection of classical sculpture and his rich collection of Italian paintings, which he had access to when he arrived at court through his friend Velázquez. The knowledge and mastery of so many disciplines, something out of reach for most, gave everything he produced a unitary character. Thus, his sculptures and paintings go hand in hand: he used color in sculpture to have an impact where the gouge was not enough, while in his painting, the ease in handling all three dimensions and volume stands out.

In this work two aspects catch the eye: on the one hand the foreshortening of the trumpeter angel, and secondly, the Michelangelesque style in which Alonso Cano handles the body of the saint, who does not seem to be suffering the rigors of penitence.

In this painting Cano showed that chromatic economy should not be an obstacle to creating a great work thanks to the wealth of shades of the same color. Alongside this, the sensation of movement powerfully draws the attention of the beholder.

Cano's classicism is evident in this head which was created in "Roman" style. The descriptive values in this sculpture, with its many different facets, are complemented by a polychromatic finish which enhances the details.

The degree of collaboration between Alonso Cano and Pedro de Mena when they created the sculptures in the transept of the Santo Ángel Custodio church was such that even today it has not been possible to determine which parts each of them did.

Cano's wake
Alonso Cano's return to Granada in 1652 triggered a real revolution in the city's artistic landscape. Granada artists' painting and sculpture from that time until well into the eighteenth century had the teaching of Cano as their point of reference. The features that identified and differentiated the master, such as serenity versus exaggerated movement, the internalization of pain versus its external dramatization, or idealized beauty versus the harshness of reality, were assimilated by the local artists. Cano's disciples would be numerous. Some dealt with him directly, such as Pedro Atanasio Bocanegra, Juan de Sevilla, Pedro de Moya, Felipe Gomez Valencia, or the sculptor Pedro de Mena; others, like José Risueño, only knew his work. Sometimes it would be the subject, other times the composition, the models, the form, the color, or the light, but there will always be some Canoesque feature in each of them.

Out of all of Cano's iconographic subjects, the Immaculate Conception was the most note-worthy, in which the outline of the image is adapted to a closed spindle-shaped profile.

Along with Pedro Atanasio Bocanegra, Juan de Sevilla was one of the most prominent disciples of Cano. Traditionally it has been considered that the effigy of the cleric in this Juan de Sevilla painting is the portrait of Alonso Cano.

This is the only known canvas signed by Pedro de Moya. Moya also was influenced by Cano's subjects, which is evident in the group formed by Jesus and the Virgin.

Pedro de Mena would be one of the great sculptors of his time. He was a great creator of types. He popularized pairs of busts consisting of a Virgin Dolorosa and an Ecce Homo; José de Mora would also do this.

Like Cano, Risueño would dominate painting, sculpture, and altar art. He popularized sculptures from polychromatic fired clay, which endowed them with the softness and movement typical of the eighteenth century.

Granada as a theme. A century of romantic myth
In the eighteenth century Granada began to experience an artistic decline which, except for some excellent exceptions, would continue for the next century. Although during the twentieth century Granada would not be an important artistic center, it did, however, stand out as an almost obligatory destination for artists, writers, and musicians in the first third of the century, when the first romantic travelers started to arrive. It was without doubt romantic ideas which made Granada a legend, a point of reference for all travelers on the Grand Tour, the journey that would lead them to move around the Mediterranean countries in search of new experiences. Few cities married the beauty of a natural landscape and the uniqueness of Orientalizing ruins like Granada. This combined with the character of its people, the inheritors of a legendary past which fed the imagination of travelers. Hence the landscapes would include scenes of everyday life, religious rites, or the collective celebrations that so amazed them. After the foreigners came the Spanish travelers, also attracted by the city and its legendary past, among them the now famous Mariano Fortuny. The romantic myth of Granada would last until well into the twentieth century.

Fortuny was endowed with great technical skill. He painted his pictures with a technique of great precision and detail using tiny strokes which was known as "preciocismo" and which would adopt many disciples.

Larrocha was one of the local painters who was seduced by the technique and how Fortuny worked. He lived in Granada for two years. Together with Gómez Moreno, he would be one of the few outstanding painters in Granada in the second half the nineteenth century.

Rusiñol arrived in Granada attracted by the evocative history of the city, and assembled around him a group of local artists with whom he painted numerous enclaves of the city and its surroundings, such as this garden in the Palacio del Cuzco in the town of Viznar.

The Alhambra wielded great drawing power for local painters as well. In this corner of the Alhambra, Lopez Mezquita was especially interested in studying the image reflected on the surface of the water.

He was concerned with capturing the effects of light, in the case of this painting he leaves us with a study of night light.

The revival of the nineteenth century
After a long hiatus Granada regained its place in the national artistic and cultural landscape. The twentieth century was characterized by the great diversity of artistic movements that arose and by how quickly they followed on from each other, although they did not actually die out but rather coexisted. Different generations of artists with very different concerns took turns in passing the baton on to the next. The first of them, the Rodriguez-Acosta or López Mezquita generation, was made up of masters from the nineteenth century that matured in the early twentieth century. Without moving away completely from tradition, they went beyond the stalest academism and came to dominate the first half of the century, producing paintings to please bourgeois tastes. The second generation, with very different artistic concerns, was born at the end of the century. Artists like Manuel Angeles Ortiz and Ismael González de la Serna belonged to this generation. They would travel to the French capital where they came into contact with the early avant-garde movements and with characters as decisive as Picasso, becoming part of the group known as the Spanish artists of the School of Paris. A third generation, those born well into the twentieth century, would dominate the creative landscape of the second half of the century. Artists of the stature of José Guerrero and Manuel Rivera, whose output is linked with abstraction and the use of new materials, belonged to this generation. What unites these last two generations is the break with traditional art.

This is one of the best-known of the Rodríguez-Acosta nudes of a symbolic nature. Two more are kept in the museum: "Nude with blanket" and "Nude with crystal ball."

This work, with its large dimensions and huge compositional complexity, was made when he was 27. He presented it at several exhibitions, winning a prize in Buenos Aires.

González de la Serna assimilated cubist postulates as demonstrated by this work which incorporates the technique of "paper collage." The incorporation of musical scores is very common in his compositions.

The return to Granada marked the beginning of a period of great creativity for Ángeles Ortiz. In this composition he represents a corner of the Alhambra, reducing it to basic geometric shapes (triangles) with a clear vanishing point, and the sky can be discerned at the top.

Rivera incorporated new materials beyond the strictly pictorial in his creative universe, such, as wire mesh. He used overlapping planes and fabrics to create the effect of chromatic vibration.

Guerrero liked making large canvases series on the same subject. This one of Arcos Negros is an evolution of the Fosforescencias series. In both he depicts one of his major preoccupations: the order and structure of the pictorial surface.

Unique works
This section includes works which, although they may fit in some of the previous sections, have as a commonality their uniqueness within our collections, either because of the technique or the materials used, their subject, their quality, or other exceptional values.

Tradition has linked this enamel with Gonzalo Fernandez de Córdoba, the Great Captain. Although two hands and two styles can be discerned, in both the technical quality and precision of execution stand out.

This is one of the two ivory sculptures kept in our collections, of which this has the highest technical and compositional quality. Working with ivory requires great technical precision.

Sanchez Cotan is considered one of the creators of the prototype of Spanish still life popularized in the first third of the seventeenth century. Of all those he produced, this is the most sober and simple. Its compositional scheme was widely imitated by others.

How much this still life, like others by Van der Hamen, owes to Sánchez Cotán is undeniable as it was directly inspired by his models, not just in how objects are placed on a windowsill but also in the use of descriptive light.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada
Credits: Story

Art in Granada and Granada in art

Organised by:
Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Curated by: Ricardo Tenorio Vera y Emilio Juan Escoriza Escoriza
Texts: Ricardo Tenorio Vera, Emilio Caro Rodríguez y Emilio Juan Escoriza Escoriza
Photography: Javier Algarra, Vicente del Amo
Digital Edition: Ricardo Tenorio Vera y Emilio Juan Escoriza Escoriza

Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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