2007-02-12 • 2007-05-27
in the MAPFRE collections
José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945) is a representative of continuity in an aesthetic of Black Spain, whose foremost representatives, at the turn of the 20th century, were Regoyos and Zuloaga. His work is related with the expressionist and anticlassical tradition of Spanish baroque painting and, especially with the Goya of the Black Paintings, from where his chromatic palette of blacks, ochres and grey-browns originates. Themes related with death, religious rites, bull fighting, village dances and scenes of urban slum areas went to make up his favourite thematic repertoire.
MAPFRE's collection of works by Solana comprises 6 canvases, 25 etchings and 4 lithographs which afford a representative vision of the artist's works as a whole. In the earlier of his oil paintings Procesión de noche (Night procession)(1917), the composition is organized in a double frieze: that of the cult images and that of those watching the procession. In the upper one, focussing on the inanimate, Solana has introduced movement and expressiveness, whereas the lower frieze, taken up with the human aspect, appears to be dominated by motionlessness and lack of expressiveness. The theme of the procession appears again in El beso de Judas (The kiss of Judas)(1932), in which the thick brushstrokes of his first period has given way to a more contained technique.
La baraja de la muerte (The cards of death)(1926-27) and El osario (The ossuary) (1931) belong to a productive pictorial tradition which begins Baroque style. In the former, he has placed a series of objects on a coarse wooden table –a mirror, some cards, a pistol, a suit of armour and a skull– related to the traditional painting of vanitas. In the latter, monks can be seen to be attending to their dead with the same naturalness with which, in other works of Solana's, barbers and hairdressers attend to their clients. Santos de pueblo (Village saints) (1929) is a disturbing still life painting, where, on a light background and stripped of their context of sacredness, appear ancient wood carvings: a martyr saint, a Saint Roque, an Immaculate Conception and two Christs, probably from the collection that the Solana brothers kept in their house. Finally, Máscaras bailando del brazo (Dancing masks taken by the arm) (1938), regarded as one of his masterpieces, synthesizes most of the values of his painting. Painted en Paris, where he lived in exile as a result of the Spanish Civil War, the picture exhibits an exquisite chromatic sensitivity and a meticulous composition.
As a result of Solana's interest in engraving there is a wealth of testimonies in his literary works, although his engravings only belong to specific periods of his career. His first ones were produced around 1918 in the National School of Graphic Arts in Madrid, although it was not until 1932 that he created his most extensive series of engravings. Later, he only produced three lithographs in 1937. Apart from the odd exception, all of his engravings refer to a painted model on which they directly depend and, for this reason, one may have a privileged insight into the artist's works in their various facets. Technically speaking, all are pure engravings, although some include hints of dry-point and aquatint and are embossed on Japanese vellum.