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The Roots of Modern Spanish Art Looking at the history of traditional Spanish Painting through the work of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. By : Tanya Rogish Wood.

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The Roots of Modern Spanish ArtLooking at the history of traditional Spanish Painting through the work of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso

By : Tanya Rogish Wood

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From the dawn of time, man has felt the need to create art. Throughout the years each artist has strived to be unique and push the boundaries of what is conceptually and aesthetically pleasing. Traditions and cultural heritage have also played a major role in an artists' inspiration. No matter how hard one may try to rebel against their upbringing these traditions are still present, subtle though they may be.After seeing an exhibition at the Guggenheim titled, "The Roots of Spanish Art: From El Greco to Picasso", I became conscious of just how many of Picasso's Cubistic paintings were based on the classic religious and iconographic forms merely because of the way he chose to represent them. In this weeks painting class, my goal was to attempt to re-create some of these time-honored scenes using a realistic figurative approach but also incorporating a modern/abstract feel to it.

spanish painting from el greco to picasso time truth history an exhibit at the guggenheim museum
Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, & History~ An Exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum ~

This exhibit was broken down into sections, based on various themes running through the past five centuries of Spanish culture. It shows similarities between the art of old masters & that of the modern era. Some people may say that this comparison between time periods and artistic styles challenges conventional art philosophy. When viewing these paintings side by side the viewer is able to see radical juxtapositions that cross time revealing a fundamental understanding of the Spanish customs.

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When most art historians categorize typical Spanish Art, they are normally referring to what is known as the Golden Age, which lasted from El Greco (1541-1614) to Goya (1746-1828) believing that Cubism and Surrealism were too avant-garde and broke completely with Spanish traditions. In this exhibit, the connections between Spanish art of the modern age and that of the past become apparent through the themes each is put under (still life, landscape, portrait, etc).

Juan Gris – 1916 Oil on Canvas Still Life with Newspaper

Juan Sanchez Cotan – 1602 – Oil on Canvas Still Life with Fruits & Vegetables

from past to present
From past to present

The Picador – Pablo Picasso - 1900

Here is an example of a modern painting portraying a traditional idea. We see on the left, Goya’s representation of a bull fight and then above Picasso’s rendition of the same thing. In order to go forward with new ideas we must also examine our past.

Pass with a Cape – Oil on canvas

Fransico Goya

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When he visited the Prado in 1865, Edouard Manet observed that the Spanish School had made its greatest contribution of all in the field of the portrait, which took on a distinctive naturalism in the hands of painters such as El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Juan Carreño de Miranda. This section of the exhibition explore the shifting terms of portraiture over the past five centuries.

Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), Francisco Pacheco? ca. 1619–22

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) Portrait of Jaime Sabartés 1939

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A similar duality of psychological depth and surface affect reigned over portraiture of women in 17th century Spain, but it was aggravated by a social sensibility that obligated women to behave with modesty and made female portraits rare outside the heraldic context of royalty. In this moral setting the splendid attire that a true "lady" donned in public—to demonstrate both her elevated social rank and her skill at handling appearances with care—was always viewed with a degree of suspicion, as if social ostentation covered over coquettishness, seduction, deceit, or libertinage. Ambivalence between introspective reserve and decorative display became essential to Goya, who in the context of the Enlightenment, managed to shatter conventional stereotypes by combining them in defiant individualistic portraits of duchesses and other prominent women. In the twentieth century, even as the figure of the lady gave way to new social roles, the old, paradoxical understanding of femininity persisted in the works of Picasso and his avant-garde colleagues, who represented women as dual sources of pleasure and peril.

Francisco De Goya (1746–1828) The Duchess of Abrantes, 1816

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Portrait of Marie-Thérese Walter with a Garland, 1937

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(below) - El Greco (1541-1614) The Vision of Saint John, ca. 1608–14. Oil on canvas

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) Winter Landscape1950

The cultural fuel for this vision came from mysticism, which proposed an emotional involvement with landscape through the medium of sacred lyric poetry in the 16th century, around the time El Greco first began to treat the subject. Although this tendency was soon curtailed, it left smoldering embers that were fanned back into a flame centuries later by artists like Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró. For Goya the agitation of his landscapes had a great deal to do with the cult of the sublime, and Picasso's long-standing interest in El Greco led him to bring the spirit of that artist's landscapes back to life.

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Juan Pantoja de la Cruz - The Infantes Don Felipe & Dona Ana

Pablo Picasso

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Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), The Infanta Margarita María from The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas), after Velázquez, 1957

Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), Portrait of Queen Mariana, ca. 1656. Oil on canvas

salvador dali surrealism
Salvador Dali & Surrealism

“The only thing that the world will not have enough of is exaggeration.”

- Salvador Dali -

(On Left) Salvador Dalí in front of his painting The Madonna of Port Lligat (1950).

Under the influence of the surrealist movement, Dali's artistic style crystalized into the disturbing blend of precise realism and dreamlike fantasy that became his trademark. His paintings combined meticulous draftsmanship and detail with a unique and stimulating imagination.

left bartolom esteban murillo 1617 1682 the virgin of the rosary 1650 55 oil on canvas 164 x 110 cm
(Left) - Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), The Virgin of the Rosary,1650–55. Oil on canvas, 164 x 110 cm

(Right) - Salvador Dalí

(1904–1989),

Madonna of Port Lligat (first version), 1949 Oil on canvas

Since ancient times Mediterranean culture has been saturated with matriarchal symbols. Most important within the Spanish tradition of such imagery was the notion of the Immaculate Conception, which during the Counter-Reformation became an official dogma of the Catholic faith, thanks in large part to the Church in Spain. The significance grew out of anxieties regarding the moral purity of a maiden's virginity contrasted with the love of the mother, who, to become one, had first to be sullied. There was hardly a single Spanish painter throughout the 17th century who did not address this theme, and it became a fundamental part of artistic heritage in the modern era. Its trace survives even in a manifestly atheist painter like Picasso, as well as in many other 20th-century Spanish artists, most notably Salvador Dalí.

freud surrealism
Dali was deeply influenced by Sigmund Freud's writings on the unconscious and dreams, as well as firmly affixing himself to the developing Surrealistic groups in Europe during the 1930s. The French surrealists were a group of artists and writers led by the French poet Andre Breton. When Dali visited Paris for the first time, he was introduced to the leading surrealists in the movement, but because of his lack of interest in politics, he was eventually shunned by this group.Freud & Surrealism

Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus - 1935

by Salvador Dali

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Along with the influence of the surrealist movement, Dali's artistic style came together in the disturbing blend of precise realism and dreamlike fantasy that became his trademark.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus – 1936-1937 20 x 20 - Salvador Dali – Oil on canvas

His paintings combined meticulous detail with a unique & stimulating imagination.

The images he created perplex, confound, and intrigue the viewer.

The Elephants – Salvador Dali - 1948

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Dali prophetically reveals the dreams, fears, hopes and frustrations of modern man, and has succeeded in expressing the nostalgia, the terror, the poetry, and the confusion of our times.

Dali lived in the United States during the 1940s and early '50s, and developed his extravagant and eccentric public persona during this time. He returned to Spain in 1955, and lived an increasingly reclusive life until his death in 1989.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony – 1946 Salvador Dali – Oil on Canvas – 89.7cm x 119.5cm

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The Sacrament of the Last Supper – Salvador Dali -

Christus Hypercubus-Corpus Hypercubus Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John on the Cross – Salvador Dali - 1951

process
Process
  • Students learned about the History of Spanish Art through this power point presentation, a video shown on Salvador Dali, and by browsing through this exhibit on the Guggenheim website.
  • We discussed Vanitas painting and some similarities found in Spanish Art.
  • Students divided their paper into a minimum of 10 sections, then spread out through the classroom to draw the still life in front of them. They were expected to use a variety of vantage points from looking up at the still life from the floor to looking down on the still life from above by sitting in a chair on top of the table.
  • Students were encouraged to use realistic drawing techniques such as Dali would have used but to abstract their colors from the norm as Picasso may have done.
  • Students changed vantage points every 20 minutes or so.
other ideas
Other Ideas
  • While at the NAEA conference last year, I took a drywall relief workshop. This medium would be another great way to teach this lesson. The fresco process could be pulled in and the drywall relief could be the finished project or it could be used as a print making plate.
  • There are so many possiblities here..ceramics, painting, drywall relief, drawn still life’s etc.
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I planned out a series of paintings that would encompass Christ's life from conception to resurrection/ascension into heaven. On my first attempt, I drew my figures very realistically and thought that the colors and textures of the paint would give it the modern feel that I thought it needed. Upon completion of this painting, I realized that it did not have the look I was intending. It had a Van Gogh/Impressionistic feel to it due to the colors & textures used. I was introduced to Aboriginal and Asmat Art which allowed my figures to emerge from the Asmat sculptural influence and the background was influenced by the Aboriginal dot work. I think the India Ink tied the styles together and also gives it a more contemporary feel. I believe that I successfully conquered my problem and have developed a style that I can pursue further.

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Immaculate Conception 1 By:Tanya Rogish Wood

Immaculate Conception 2 By: Tanya Rogish Wood

This painting has the realistic figurative qualities of Dali while the bold colors and Impressionistic mark makingand lack of facial features gives it a more abstract feel.

This painting has a more Cubistic figurative approach which was inspired by African Asmat Art and the background was inspired by Aboriginal Dot work.

links other resources
Links & Other Resources
  • http://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?exhibit=75840 (Student Work)
  • http://www.guggenheim.org/picasso/ (Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History – through March 28, 2007)