The White Ship's Boy - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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The White Ship's Boy

Tellaeche, Julián de

Bergara, Gipuzkoa, 30/11/1884-Lima, 24/12/1957

Oil on cardboard

70.2 x 80 cm

Tellaeche (bottom left hand corner)

c. 1922-1924

20th century. First quarter


Acquired in 1928

Even though he was born in an inland city, Tellaeche had a close relationship with the Basque coast because he went to live in the town of Lekeitio in Bizkaia at the age of 15. After his early art education in the atelier of Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid, he headed for Paris in 1902, where he studied at the free Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi on his first trip and La Grande Chaumière on his second stay. There he assimilated the post-Impressionist trends, especially from Gauguin and Cézanne. Back in Lekeitio, and before forging bonds with the art scene in Bilbao, he journeyed as a seaman in 1908 and 1909. Shortly thereafter, in 1911, he was one of the driving forces behind the Association of Basque Artists and participated in almost all its exhibitions.

During the Spanish Civil War, he worked with the Basque government to safeguard its heritage along with José María de Ucelay. This forced him to go into exile in Paris after a journey around Europe with the show entitled Eresoinka. From the capital of France, he moved to Peru in 1952, where he set up a restoration workshops directed the State Restoration School until his death in 1957.

The White Ship's Boy reflects all the hallmarks of Tellaeche's painting. Thematically, he draws from the seafaring theme, as he does in so many other works. In terms of the formal aspects, energetic diagonal brushstrokes are this artist's hallmarks, in addition to the use of cardboard as the support. This results in a sobriety of colour and matte textures created by the absorbency of the material, thus directing our attention to the composition, not to the gleam of the oil paint. Therefore, this painting is an example of Tellaeche's coarse yet detailed painting: the tangle of sails, ropes, pulleys, oars, boats, etc., and the colourful reflections on the water saturate the space almost until generating a horror vacui. This contrasts with the dryness and matte look of the pigments, reinforced by glimpses of cardboard that are seen through the unpainted surfaces, giving the impression of simplicity and sobriety.

A limited repertoire of themes is repeated throughout Tellaeche's entire output: mothers with children, seamen, ship's boys, boats moored in harbours and the distorting reflections in the canals of Bruges lead one to think about his painting output as the representation of his personal obsessions. Furthermore, the need to seek the monumentality of the Basque archetype seen in The White Ship's Boy is another of his hallmarks: a typical Basque seaman becomes a typical seaman from anywhere in the world, typical yet universal at the same time.

Tellaeche represents all of this through a freedom of colour similar to French post-Impressionism. An expressive form of painting thereby emerges which refers to lived experience treated with a free gesture, as if the moment of painting could re-create that intense experience on the sea or in the ports of call. But we should not be fooled by the freedom of the colours and brushstrokes, since they are enhanced by a well-constructed geometric composition and an effort at diagonal organisation. [Ismael Manterola]

Selected bibliography

  • "Cuales fueron los dieciseis cuadros enviados por los rojos al Extranjero, otros trece han sido encontrados en el Carlton", Hierro. 28 de septiembre de 1937. p. 3.
  • 50 años de pintura vasca, 1885-1935 [Cat. exp.]. Madrid, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, 1971. n° cat. 147.
  • 50 años de pintura vasca, 1885-1935 [Cat. exp.]. San Sebastián, Museo de San Telmo, 1972. s. p., n° cat. 98.
  • Pintores y escultores vascos de ayer, hoy y mañana. Bilbao, La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, vol. III, 1973. pp. 18-19.
  • Bengoechea, Javier de. Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao. Bilbao, La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, 1978. p. 292.
  • Donosty, José Maria. Caminos en la pintura a través de la obra de Pablo Uranga, Ignacio Zuloaga ... : una visión de San Sebastián en los años 1857 y 1872. San Sebastián, Banco Guipuzcoano, 1978.
  • Homenaje a Julián de Tellaeche, 1884-1957 [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Banco de Bilbao, 1980. p. 34, n° cat. 9.
  • Bengoechea, Javier de. Catálogo de arte moderno y contemporáneo del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, Banco de Vizcaya, 1980. p. 115. (Con el título El grumete blanco).
  • Pabellón español : exposición internacional de París, 1937 [Cat. exp.]. Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura, 1987. pp. 134, 252.
  • Catálogo de la Primera Exposición de la Sociedad de Artistas Ibéricos : Palacio de Exposiciones del Retiro, Madrid, mayo y junio 1925. Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1995. n° cat. 176.
  • La Sociedad de Artistas Ibéricos y el arte español de 1925 [Cat. exp.]. Madrid ; Barcelona, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía ; Àmbit, 1995. pp. 204, 283.
  • Julián de Tellaeche [Cat. exp.]. Donostia-San Sebastián, Fundación Social y Cultural Kutxa, 1997. p. 98.
  • Tradition and modernity in basque painting, 1880-1939 = Tradición y modernidad en la pintura vasca, 1880-1939 [Cat. exp.]. Southampton ; Bilbao, Southampton City Art Gallery ; Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 1997. p. 111, n° cat. 40.
  • Pintura española de la era industrial : 1800-1900 [Cat. exp.]. Madrid, Fundación Arte y Tecnología, 1998. p. 226.
  • 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. 121.
  • Novecentismo y Vanguardia, 1910-1936 : en la colección del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2009. pp. 370-371, n° cat. 134.
  • 110 Años 110 Obras [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018. pp. 228-229, sin n° cat.
  • 110 Ans 110 Oeuvres [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018. pp. 228-229, sin n° cat.
  • 110 Urte 110 Artelan [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018. pp. 228-229, sin n° cat.
  • 110 Years 110 Works [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018. pp. 228-229, sin n° cat.
  • Zugaza, Miguel ... [et al.]. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : maestros antiguos y modernos. Bilbao, Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa = Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa Fundazioa, 1999. p. 201.