Black Table - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Black Table

Barceló, José

Cartagena, Murcia, 23/03/1923-Bilbao, 26/07/2001

Oil on canvas

90.5 x 118 cm

Jose Barcelo (bottom left hand corner)


Third quarter of the 20th century


Acquired in 1965

José Barceló began his training with Vicente Ros in his hometown. Arriving in Bilbao after the Civil War, he became great friends with the local poet Blas de Otero, a friendship that prompted him early on to explore social painting. Subsequently his work would move to the frontier of Spatialist abstraction and a landscape art of violent chiaroscuros, almost always with a strong geometric component derived from Cubism. The lack of definition that marks his landscapes, his still life painting and his works featuring groups of humans, occasionally militates against our determining precisely the ultimate nature of his themes. They become unified in his stylistic phases in such a way that often only the title gives a clue to the motif, frequently built on what appears to be a clear horizon line, but which could as easily be the edge of a table, with simplified forms rendered in thick swabs of paint applied with a spatula.

Perhaps the landscape is Barceló¿s most characteristic genre, and within it, the images of the river at Bilbao and the iron and steel constructions that have now all but disappeared. His taste for phantasmagorical images found by far its best vehicle in the disturbing nighttime visions of the blast furnaces, the incandescent liquid iron and the reflections in the water.

Black Table, a still life that could just as well be a landscape seen at night, has all the characteristic features of his painting, rendered with a resolution that brings it close to certain modes of admittedly banal lyrical abstraction and, in this case, to a dramatic quality that simply exceeds the boundaries of the subject's genre. The confrontation of the forms and the imprecision to which he submits the material, or the division established between the doubtful evidence of the objects portrayed and the freedom of composition, with the traditional resources of chiaroscuro and, in the background, of figurative description, situate this painting at a crossroads typical of its time, one that Barceló, judging by its persistence in his work, ended up making a central feature of his style. [Javier Viar]

Selected bibliography

  • Pintores españoles contemporáneos : diccionario : desde 1881, nacimiento de Picasso. Madrid, Estiarte, 1972.
  • Bengoechea, Javier de. Catálogo de arte moderno y contemporáneo del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, Banco de Vizcaya, 1980. p 27. (Con el título Bodegón).
  • Guía Artistas Vascos. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2008. p. 128.
  • Guide Basque Artists. Bilbao, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 2012. p. 127, n° cat. 69.
  • Gida Euskal Artistak. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Eder Museoa, 2008. p. 128.