Paintings from the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the San Telmo Museum (19th-20th centuries).

The Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the San Telmo Museum have acquired many contemporary and ancient works of art of local and foreign origin. They have also supported new artists with scholarships and other benefits. Gordailua preserves paintings and sculptures in different styles from various periods, especially from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The religious genre was predominant in European painting until the 19th century, which, in the life cycle of Christ, found some of the most represented themes for more than a millennium.

As was usual in 17th-century painting, Tassel compares the idealised vision of the Virgin and Child with the naturalist vision of King Melchior.

During the Baroque period, children were incorporated into religious painting and other genres as full characters. They were sometimes integrated into the story and in others the anecdotal nature of their attitude was the story itself.

Contrasting illumination, with pronounced light and shadows, serves to accentuate an almost sculptural volumetry of the bodies.

The Netherlands of the 17th and 18th century saw the sublimation of the portrait genre thanks to the exceptional development of its civil society, which wanted to record the conditions and well-being achieved over time.

The portrait was a fundamental genre in Spanish painting for centuries, but it would be during the 19th century when it would reach wider distribution: the social classes ranging from high aristocracy to the petit-bourgeoisie got used to commissioning portraits, which often served to manifest class pride.

This democratisation of the portrait led to various compositional models, of which one of the most common - and economical for the customer - from the Romantic period on was a bust against a neutral background in an oval format.

In the Romantic period, Federico de Madrazo's success as a renovator of the Spanish court portrait prompted many of his followers to try to imitate the keys that gave prestige to his painting: formal refinement, idealisation, gestural elegance, and technical mastery in capturing qualities.

In addition to portraits, landscape was one of the genres that triumphed during the 19th century. During the Romantic period, the ideals of the travelling artist were cultivated, reproducing their own and other people's views. Rather than being faithful, they sought to transmit an archetypal reality, while emphasising a picturesque taste for the diversity of human types.

The colourful animation and variety of poses of the figures embodies one of the complements for making a picture attractive during the Romantic period.

In the century of novelties, landscape would also undergo constant visual renewal. In Spain, the most noteworthy first steps in this modernisation process were taken by Carlos de Haes, who, from his professorship at the San Fernando Academy, advocated a direct approach to nature through the practice of outdoor painting and the use of clean colours. His tenets were adopted by many of his countless followers, including Eugenio Arruti from Gipuzkoa.

Arruti was one of the main followers of the realist concept of landscape in the Basque Country, which he applied, above all, to several views of San Sebastian - which was immersed in full urban expansion after the demolition of its walls in 1863 - and its surroundings.

The illuminated strip of land at the end of the shady grove helps accentuate the depth of perspective.

The realist concept continued in Gipuzkoa thanks to the work of Alejandrino Irureta, among others, who sometimes conveyed a clear trace of his melancholy character to his landscapes and, at others, the influence of the clean, luminous colours of Martín Rico.

As a follower of Alejandrino Irureta and Martín Rico, Pedro Venancio Gassis y Minondo referenced both to create realistic, attentive landscapes, based on topographical accuracy and capturing the atmosphere, using this to paint views of Venice, Cadiz and San Sebastian.

During the 19th century, the faithful representation of ships was a subordinate sub-genre to marine painting, which was also used in historical painting or to give prestige to its owners as owners of distinguished class behaviour.

The greatest representative of the marine genre in Gipuzkoa was José Salís in the decades between the 19th and 20th centuries. He went to the coast again and again to transfer the different states of the sea using charcoal, oil or etching.

In the last decades of the 19th century, costumbrismo with romantic roots moved towards a more naturalist side thanks to a double influence: Golden Age painting copied at the Museo del Prado in Madrid and compositional innovations learned in the increasingly frequent visits by Basque artists to Paris and Belgium.

Along with Paris, Belgium was a key focal point in the modernisation of Basque painting thanks to the irradiation of its influence through Dario de Regoyos, who was involved in the renovating circles in Brussels from very early on.

Direct contact with the French Impressionists defined the evolution of Dario de Regoyos’ style, which paid special attention to the Basque landscape as being more conducive to capturing the atmospheric feel and ever-changing light.

The industrial development of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa at the end of the 19th century generated new fortunes, which mimicked the class behaviour of the European and American bourgeoisie, including constructing luxurious residences.

The detailed view makes it possible to appreciate the false mosaic technique and the consequent tendency to the geometry of the figures.

The decoration of these mansions featured leading local artists, who painted murals and designed stained-glass windows, in most cases, drawn from rural life.

The accentuated enclosing line for the figures and various landscape elements and the use of colouring with little shading are a result of executing the work for application to a stained-glass window.

Despite the advent of modernity in the last decades of the 19th century, it did not affect all Basque artists alike, and the weight of tradition still held sway even on the younger artists in terms of the visual and the storyline.

Gipuzkoa was one of the main entry routes for the migration of artists who fled Paris at the start of the First World War. Spanish neutrality had an attractive appeal for many of them, who also saw recreational, cosmopolitan San Sebastian as a place to spend some time, create and exhibit.

The arbitrariness of the colouring and its application in broad swathes on the faces of both fisherwomen demonstrate his knowledge of the work of Gauguin and the Fauves.

The artistic avant-garde, whose methods began to emerge in the years before the Civil War, captured several Basque artists in the 1950s, such as Jorge Oteiza, Eduardo Chillida and Nestor Basterretxea, determined promoters of abstraction.

Gordailua, The Gipuzkoa Heritage Collection Centre
Credits: Story


The Gipuzkoa Heritage Collection Centre
Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa

Texts: Mikel Lertxundi Galiana

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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