Donation of three paintings by Ignacio Zuloaga, Anselmo Guinea and Benito Barrueta
Ground floor. Until 27 March 2022
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 26 January 2022.– Last December, the Board of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum approved the entry of three works by the Basque painters, Ignacio Zuloaga, Anselmo Guinea and Benito Barrueta. They are now part of the museum’s collection thanks to the generous donation from the collectors Plácido, Maite and Francisco Arango García-Urtiaga, Carmen de Icaza Zabálburu and Ignacio Marco-Gardoqui, respectively.
They are Gypsy Picador by Ignacio Zuloaga (Eibar, Gipuzkoa, 1870–Madrid, 1945), Hoeing the Weeds by Anselmo Guinea (Bilbao, 1855–1906) and Self-Portrait by Benito Barrueta (Bermeo, Vizcaya, 1873–1953), three works that enhance their authors’ representation in the collection for a host of reasons.
The donation of Gypsy Picador brings the theme of bullfighting, so characteristic of the painter and one of the keys to his international success, into the museum’s collection for the first time. We know that the work was acquired in Venice and was later part of collections in Frankfurt and Madrid, until it recently appeared on the market and was purchased by the collector Plácido Arango, whose heirs have donated it to the museum in his memory.
Hoeing the Weeds by Anselmo Guinea is an important work in the painter’s output and in Basque painting in general. Painted after his return from his first journey to Paris, it signals Guinea’s incorporation into the modernity espoused by his colleague Adolfo Guiard, who introduced him to the impressionistic aesthetic.
With the donation of the beautiful self-portrait of Barrueta dating from around 1905—decades before the self-portrait dating from 1943–45, which already belongs to the museum—the lifelong series of portraits of one of the most notable portraitists in Basque painting is now completed, a permanent tribute to modern painting following Velázquez’s example.
Ignacio ZULOAGA (Eibar, Gipuzkoa, 1870-Madrid, 1945)
Gypsy Picador, 1903
Oil on canvas. 137 x 135 cm
Donated by the children of Plácido Arango Arias in 2021
Just like Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picasso and Miquel Barceló, Ignacio Zuloaga professed a profound admiration of the world of bullfighting. This was reflected not only in his painting but also in his youthful biography, when he enrolled in the Manuel Carmona bullfighting school in Seville, in whose bullring he actually killed young bulls under the nickname of ‘The Painter’.
This insider knowledge was expressed in his compositions on the theme, which he approached with a humanistic touch, often depicting—as in the celebrated canvas owned by the Hispanic Society of New York deposited in the museum—the ‘victims of the spectacle’: humble bullfighters, picadors, dancers, singers and other secondary characters, embodied by models whom Zuloaga portrayed with incredible lifelikeness. This particular vision of a theme whose more ethnographic version had become enormously popular in Paris since the mid-nineteenth century occupied a privileged place in Zuloaga’s output, especially after he moved from Paris to Seville, where he moved into a busy studio in 1896. Throughout the next two decades, he made countless paintings on the theme of bullfighting, such as this Gypsy Picador, which is now joining the museum’s collection thanks to a donation.
Dating from 1903, the painting dates from a period of artistic maturity and international success in the artist’s career, which led him to participate in exhibitions in Bordeaux, Paris, Munich, London, Bilbao and Venice, where he exhibited 14 works—including this one—in the Biennale and earned a gold medal.
Over a monochromatic background with hints of Velázquez, Gypsy Picador shows a bullfighter seated sideways on a wood and bullrush chair which he is grasping onto as he directs his gaze to a place outside the spectator’s view. The awkward posture and the intense gesture convey a moment of psychological tension. The light highlights the white of his shirt and the pink of his jacket lining, his cummerbund, the ribbons on his trousers and the decoration of his hat. Other lights in the buttons, gold embroidery and painted decoration of the chair enliven the composition, making it a clear example of the best of Zuloaga.
Anselmo GUINEA (Bilbao, 1855-1906)
Hoeing the Weeds, 1893
Oil on canvas. 69.2 x 118.8 cm
Donated by Carmen de Icaza Zabálburu in 2021
Painted one year after Anselmo Guinea’s first journey to Paris, Hoeing the Weeds depicts a series of figures pulling up the thistle and weeds from the corn that has been planted. It belongs to a series of works dating from those same years when Guinea often painted farm work, as in this painting, reaping or the apple harvest.
The landscape is located in the town of Murueta (Vizcaya), which today is known as the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, with the Guernica estuary, farm estates and hills in the background. Five men and two women are pulling up the weeds while a boy is seated on a brown basket in the foreground. The landscape format enhances the gentle flatness of the estuary, which is gently illuminated with a palette of blues and greys that Guinea uses to describe the composition. The delicate colours are rounded out with the green of the trees, the corn and the grapevines, while the colour contrast comes from the men’s caps and the women’s kerchiefs.
The painting was made in the spring of 1893, and shortly thereafter it was displayed in Ángel Velasco’s Espejería located on Bilbao’s Calle del Víctor. Guinea often showed his works in its display window, and just like the paintings of his colleague Adolfo Guiard, they often sparked heated controversies among fans and local art critics.
His abandonment of academicism due to his affiliation with the impressionist aesthetic and the language of plein air painting can clearly be seen in this painting, which was included in the exhibition held in homage to the painter after his death yet had remained unseen since then. It represents the shift that took place in Guinea’s works in the last decade of the nineteenth century thanks to his close collaboration with Guiard, who in 1890, with his career in full swing, moved precisely to Murueta in order to paint au plein air in direct contact with nature. Guiard shared a studio with Guinea, and his influence can clearly be seen both in the palette and the composition of this painting, with clearly defined drawing in the foreground that turns vaguer in the background, and in the construction of the figures, such as in the male figure next to the boy, which echoes the rural world of Vizcaya masterfully depicted by Guiard in Villager from Bakio (1888), which also belongs to the museum’s collection.
Benito BARRUETA (Bermeo, Bizkaia, 1873-1953)
Self-portrait, c. 1905
Oil on canvas. 46.3 x 38.2 cm
Donated by Ignacio Marco-Gardoqui in 2021
A colleague of the generation of painters that included Ángel Larroque, Juan de Echevarría, Aurelio Arteta and Valentín de Zubiaurre and the sculptor Quintín de Torre, Benito Barrueta was a painter who found his vocation early, and despite his humble background he was able to get training in the Arts and Crafts School of Madrid thanks to a scholarship. In Madrid, he worked in the Museo del Prado as a copyist and discovered the great paintings of the Spanish School, which exerted a profound influence on him. In 1900, he moved to Paris, where he interacted with the international artistic community on Montmartre, and he exhibited his works in the Salons d’Automne in 1906, 1907, 1909 and 1910 and in the Druet gallery in 1912 with a solo show. Due to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he returned to Bermeo, where he combined his work as a drawing teacher at the Navigation School and the Arts and Crafts School with his career as an artist. During the Spanish Civil War, he went into exile in France and returned in 1941, first to Bilbao and then to Durango. Finally, he lived the last decade of his life in Bermeo.
Focused on intimist art often inspired by his own surroundings, Barrueta primarily depicted household interiors, still lifes and portraits. The self-portrait donated to the museum was probably made in 1905, when his career as a painter was beginning to take off. Soberly dressed, he depicted himself in a bust facing forward. He has a long, bushy, slightly upturned moustache, which along with the cravat at his neck give him a bohemian look, and he is gazing at the spectator, creating the image of a determined man on the cusp of adulthood.
There are no references to his profession in the painting, and just like in all his portraits, he uses a monochromatic background that focuses all the attention on the sitter. Applied with loose brushstrokes, the palette of ochres and blacks measure out the light on his face, where masterful touches bring his gaze to life. The slight blurriness harks back to his youthful lessons from Velázquez, which he assimilated to create a language of his own, stripped of artifice and boasting enormous lyricism.
Thursday 3 March, 7 pm
The naturalistic longing in Anselmo Guinea
Mikel Lertxundi Galiana. PhD in Philosophy and Humanities and independent art curator
In the late 1880s, the contact with the novel aesthetic and compositional concepts that Adolfo Guiard brought from his sojourn in Paris spurred a conversion in Anselmo Guinea’s art, which laid the groundwork for his prosperity in the Roman market. His friend’s suggestions, along with his first journey to Paris in 1892, shaped his shift towards naturalism.
Thursday 10 March, 7 pm
Amidst gypsies, bullfighters and poets. Figures and models in the works of Ignacio Zuloaga
Javier Novo González. Coordinator of Conservation and Research at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
Ignacio Zuloaga’s artistic career took off thanks to his unvarnished depiction of popular, worldly figures from his era in different roles: figures from the worlds of bullfighting or the Church, poets, witches and prostitutes. With all these models, the artist sparked many controversies in Spain while garnering major success internationally.
Thursday 17 March, 7 pm
The life and works of Benito Barrueta (1873–1953)
Andone Narváez Gofinondo. Researcher specialising in Benito Barrueta
Gifted with extraordinary talent, Barrueta was known for imparting a feel of intimacy and harmonious colours in his paintings. Household scenes and local landscapes, captured with exquisite delicacy, predominate in his oeuvre. This lecture will share aspects of the life and work of this painter from Bermeo which have been heretofore unknown.
Auditorium, 7 pm
Entry free of charge at www.museobilbao.com and at the museum’s ticket counter starting 8 February