Self-Portrait - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Self-Portrait – 82/686

Bringas, Pancho

Mexico City, 01/06/1827-Bilbao, 15/10/1855

Nib on paper

25.5 x 16.5 cm

F Sr. B y B (upright in the centre of lower half)


Mid-19th century


Acquired in 1935

Bringas's birth in Mexico was anecdotal, as his family was settled back in Bilbao before he was a year old. Although his father had marked him out for a different career, he insisted, successfully, on becoming an artist. In Bilbao he attended classes given by Pablo Bausac in the mid-1840s at the recently inaugurated (and short-lived) Museum of Paintings, and in 1848 he enrolled at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, where he would stay until 1850. His father's economic problems forced Bringas to return to Bilbao. That year he decorated the premises of a society called La Pastelería, of which he was a member, and in 1852 he did the same in the theatre organized by the Philharmonic Society of Bilbao in a mezzanine in a street known as the calle Jardines. It was at this time that he was diagnosed with the tuberculosis.

The discovery of the Romantic schools of Seville and Madrid left a profound mark on Bringas the artist, orienting his work to the production of Andalusian-inspired popular types and scenes, often linked to the world of bullfighting. Postilions, as the stage coach drivers were known, principal personages, highwaymen and bullfighters peopled his works, although Basque scenes also began to be an increasingly regular theme, making him one of the forerunners of the art of popular scenes and customs in his home area. In 1850 he published with lithographer Juan Eustaquio Delmas the bullfighting album Álbum Tauromáquico, and in 1853 he went on to publish a collection of prints under the title of Trajes Bascongados (Basque costumes). He painted feverishly in these years, until the death of his father in 1854 plunged the family into a genuinely precarious situation, forcing its members to rely on charity for their subsistence. His illness returned with a vengeance, and despite a stay at the French spa of Eaux-Bonnes in summer 1855, he died at the age of twenty-eight.

Bringas's self-portrait is notable in purely artistic terms and for the information it provides about the artist, who portrays himself as something of a dandy, leaning on the table on which he has momentarily left a lit cigarette. His penetrating glance seems to be inspecting the spectator and wondering how best to get him on paper, as he had already done with the picador and the bull hanging on the wall. At his feet a letter, a pen, a folder full of sketches, a bottle of sherry, a skull and a copy of the works of Francisco de Quevedo help to define the tastes and enthusiasms of a Romantic Bringas enamoured of Andalusia. The work points up his easy, Frenchified way with line, drawn with the clean stroke to be found in his principal personages and postilions. It is no coincidence that his elegant attitude is directly linked to the ones he conferred on some of his popular characters. (Mikel Lertxundi)

Selected bibliography

  • Lasterra, Crisanto de. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : catálogo descriptivo : sección de arte antiguo. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 1969. p. 172, n° cat. 16-a. (Con el título Autorretrato, y atribuido a Francisco Bringas)
  • Encina, Juan de la. Francisco Bringas. Durango, Museo de Arte e Historia, 1985. p.11.
  • Delmas : Bizkaia XIX. mendean imprimatzaile familia baten bitartez aztertuta: Euskal Arkeologia = Delmas: Vizcaya en el siglo XIX a través de una familia de impresores. Bilbao, Euskal Arkeologia, Etnografia eta Kondaira Museoa =Museo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Histórico Vasco, 1989. p. 72, n° cat. 5.2.1.
  • Zugaza Miranda, Miguel. Euskal margolariak Aurrezki Kutxen bildumetan I = Pintores vascos en las colecciones de las Cajas de Ahorros I. Bilbao, Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa; Gipuzkoa Donostia Kutxa; y Vital Kutxa, 1993. p. 13.
  • La imagen del artista : retratos de artistas vascos entre dos siglos [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1993. p. 47.
  • Zugaza, Miguel ... [et al.]. Maestros antiguos y modernos en las colecciones del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2001. p. 78.
  • Arriaga y Ribero, Emiliano de. La Pastelería : novela histórico-bilbainesca por un chimbo : la Bilbao de 1850. Bilbao, Muelle de Uribitarte, 2006. p. 46.
  • Dibujos, grabados y acuarelas [del] siglo XIX : de Goya a Benlliure : colección Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2007. pp. 70, 72-73, n° cat. 213.
  • Guía Artistas Vascos. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2008. p. 19.
  • Gida Euskal Artistak. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Eder Museoa, 2008. p. 19.
  • Guide Basque Artists. Bilbao, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 2012. p. 19, n° cat. 5.
  • Bilboko Museoaren alfabetoa = El alfabeto del Museo de Bilbao = The alphabet of the Bilbao Museum = L'alphabet du Musée de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018. pp. 382, 389, n° cat. 209.