Sorolla, Spanish master of light

The exhibition Sorolla: Spanish master of light (S950.a.201.6770) that inspired this post is coming to an end at the National Gallery (London) on 7 July, but will open at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin between 10 August and 3 November.

1_1113px-Joaquín_Sorolla_y_Bastida_-_Self_Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project

Self-portrait, 1904 (partial view. Via Wikimedia, click to see enlarged)

Although probably not known to the English-speaking educated public, Sorolla was the most internationally well-known Spanish artist of his time. A painter with a style close to impressionism, and without any doubt, a master at capturing light.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was born in Valencia, the son of a tradesman, but became an orphan at a young age. Joaquín and his sister were taken under the care of their aunt and uncle, who was a locksmith. Sorolla showed an early interest in painting. He started taking drawing classes in 1874, later followed by studies at the Fine arts school in Valencia. With the support of the photographer Antonio García Peris (see S950.c.201.1204), his future father-in-law, he was able to set up his first studio. Continue reading

Splitting the world in two: the 525th anniversary of the Treaty of Tordesillas

Tordesillas1

P. 1 of the Spanish version (click to see enlarged)

The 7th June marks the 525th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas. The treaty was named for the Castilian town near Valladolid where it was signed by the Catholic Kings (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) and John II, King of Portugal. The signing of this treaty divided those parts of the world newly “discovered” by Spain and Portugal between the empires of the two kingdoms along an imaginary meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. The lands to the east of this line corresponded to Portugal and those to the west to Spain.

The Treaty of Tordesillas had a precedent, the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479), that followed the War of Castillan Succession, and already marked the division of the Atlantic into two spheres of influence, one for Spain and the other for Portugal, with the exception of the Canary islands (Spanish, but in the Portuguese sphere). This was confirmed by the papal bull Aeterni regis (Sixtus IV, 1481) which recognised as Portuguese some disputed territories in the Atlantic (Guinea, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde). More importantly, the treaty recognised Portugal exclusive right of navigation south of the Canary islands. Continue reading

“The book as world and the world as book” at the Warburg Institute

Alberto_Manguel_no_Fronteiras_do_Pensamento_2014_(15695479736)

Alberto Manguel, picture by Fronteiras do Pensamento [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D via Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday 20th April the Warburg Institute in London organised an event that focused on books and readers in the Spanish speaking world, entitled The book as world and the world as book. The keynote of the event was a delightful -to say the least- conversation between the Warburg’s director, Bill Sherman, and Alberto Manguel, writer and Director of the National Library of Argentina. Coincidentally, Manguel’s book Packing my Library featured as “Book of the week” on BBC Radio 4 at the beginning of the month (the UL copy stands at C205.d.5241). Their discussion, of course, was all about books, writing, reading and libraries and also about Manguel’s experiences as a young man when he read aloud to an old and blind Borges. The book With Borges (a copy is held at Jesus College’s Quincentenary Library) offers memories of the encounter and of Borges’ life beyond his writings. The  Spanish edition of the work, translated by Eduardo Berti can be found at C202.c.5582. Alberto Manguel’s holdings at the University Library are reasonably complete, both in Spanish and English, and demonstrate his flair as a writer, editor and translator (click here to see all 62 titles). Continue reading

Mariano Fortuny y Marsal: a cosmopolitan 19th-century artist

Federico_de_Madrazo_Portrait_of_Fortuny_Wiki

Mariano Fortuny in 1867 by Federico de Madrazo (Wikipedia)

This year marks the 180th anniversary of the birth of Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny 1838-1874 (not to be confused with his son Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, the fashion designer). For the first time, Madrid’s Museo del Prado held a comprehensive exhibition devoted to Fortuny, showing 169 art pieces loaned by private collectors and major museums including the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya – MNAC (Barcelona) and Museo Fortuny (Venice).

Fortuny was internationally renowned and, after Francisco de Goya (see Glendinning’s donation post), considered one of the best Spanish painters and printmakers of the 19th century.  His take on genre painting was fashionable, and collecting his art was a sign of class for the bourgeoisie, as Carlos Reyero explains in his recent book (C205.d.4208).  Fortuny had great success painting genre scenes and Moresque-inspired paintings. But at the same time he was an innovator and enjoyed the rare privilege of creating the art he wished. He was very versatile artist; he mastered all the techniques he undertook: oil painting, with precise touch often compared with Ernest Meissonier’s, and especially watercolour and etching, advancing both techniques and achieving new results. He used watercolour in a more modern way, as an autonomous art technique, and not only for preparatory works. His etchings were influenced mainly by the work of Goya, Rembrandt and José de Ribera. As he was more skilful than his contemporaries, he aroused both their envy and admiration. Continue reading