Anselmo Guinea's picture album - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Anselmo Guinea's picture album

Guinea, Anselmo

Bilbao, 18/05/1855-Bilbao, 10/06/1906

Graphite, charcoal and coloured pencil on paper

15.3 x 23.2 x 2.2 cm

Anselmo Guinea

c. 1899-1900

Late 19th century-early 20th century


Donated by Michel Mejuto Alonso, 2007

The hundred-plus conserved drawings by Anselmo Guinea are just a handful if we bear in mind that he was an artist whose working method entailed making several sketches prior to the final work. This is even more surprising after realising that only a minimum of the drawings known today were made for this purpose.

In the nineteenth century, it was common for an artist whose attention had been drawn by something-a building, local folk or the most banal of objects-to take out their sketchbook and stop to sketch it. But except for the most exceptional cases, it is virtually impossible to reconstruct the visual memory of the life of an artist by studying these sketches, because very few collections of these sketchbooks have survived today in their entirety. Therefore, the case of Guinea is not extraordinary. Apart from two mutilated albums he took on his first journey to Rome (1875-1876) and a handful of loose sheets which used to belong to others, this sketchbook is the only one that has been conserved in its entirety.

The sketchbook contains drawings made during the summer of 1899, divided into two groups. The first one dates from his stay in Arratia Valley, where he had summered for several years. However, the album opens with two sketches from an outing to Mount Gorbea, in which he captures a hermitage and several shepherd's huts from one of the meadows near the peak. This outing may be related to the commission organised that year by the parish of Zeanuri, one of the villages in this valley in Bizkaia, to obey Pope Leo XIII's recommendation to commemorate the arrival of the twentieth century by building monumental crosses on the world's mountain peaks, which may have given rise to the installation of the Cross of Gorbea.

Among the notes on the archetypes and places in Arratia, the sketches for the painting After Mass in Arteaga Church (1899, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Inv. No. 82/39) stand out; they are comprised of a detailed drawing of one side inside the church seen from the lower choir, where the arrangement of figures does not exactly match the finished oil painting, and several studies of its main figures: those carrying the cross and the standard.

The second group of drawings was made on one or several of his frequent outings at sea late in the century with the sailor Ramón de la Sota. In fact, the series starts with a view of the Goizeko-Izarra, the first of the sailor's recreational yachts that was christened with this name. Back from one of his sails that summer, Guinea witnessed the rescue of castaways, an event that he captured the next year in the large painting entitled Rescue of the Boat Josephita (1900). The album contains a quick sketch of the scene in which the outlines of the composition can be seen, and just like in the finished work the silhouette of the yacht plying the waves can be seen on an elevated horizon line.

This second part also contains numerous sketches on different kinds of boats, some of their crew and details of their rigging and anchors, in addition to a panoramic view of the mouth of the Nervión River (Las Arenas and Portugalete) seen from the sea. Many of the boats populating these pages are the sports sailboats that Guinea drew aboard the Goizeko-Izarra during the regattas held in El Abra haven in August. He later used the majority of these sketches to compose the painting Regattas in El Abra Haven (ca.1899-1900).

The drawings in this second part of his summer are completed with a view of El Abra haven from land and another of the side of the old port in Algorta. As a whole, the album shows Guinea's evolved drawing characteristic of his mature phase, unlike his style in the 1870s and 1880s. After his close collaboration with Adolfo Guiard and two stays in Paris, he had ceased making drawings with short lines and instead used more fluid, sinuous lines.

On the other hand, some of the drawings he made at sea are interesting in that they reflect the influence that the environment exerts on the work, as it is clear that the certainty of his lines is altered by the bobbing of the boat. (Mikel Lertxundi)

Selected bibliography

  • Últimas décadas del siglo XIX-primera mitad del siglo XX : de Cézanne a Léger : colección Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2009. pp. 286-306, n° cat. 115.