Exhibition: Rose with a candle - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2007-10-15 • 2008-01-06

Rose with a candle

The Guest Work is a programme which was implemented by the Bilbao Art Museum with the intention of acquainting the general public with outstanding works belonging to other museums or collections so that the artists already present in the Museum's collection might be complemented or the works of other painters not represented in the Museum might be seen. In this way, the Programme gives stability to one of the Museum's traditional lines of exhibition.

The Programme commenced in 2001 and has been sponsored by the Santander Foundation since 2004. This is the twentieth edition and, in the Museum's Hall of Contemporary Art, one of Luis Fernández's paintings, Rose avec une bougie (Rose with a candle), 1971-73, which belongs to the Asturias Art Museum, Oviedo, will be on show until the coming 6th January, 2008.


Documented as the work that Luis Fernández (Oviedo, 1900-Paris, 1973) was painting before he died on the 25th October, 1973, Rose avec une bougie (Rose with a candle) is, without doubt, one of the painter's most beautiful creations. Given its marked symbolism, it may be regarded as one of his most emblematic  works. Furthermore, this is the picture on which the artist is seen to be working in the documentary made for French television about the man in 1972 on the occasion of his important retrospective exhibition at the Centre National d'Art Contemporain (CNAC) in Paris.

The painting incorporates two of the most representative leitmotifs in Fernández's iconography, which he had already treated individually in some of his works from the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. On one side, there is the rose, which appears on a sort of ledge or table, for which the background is the medium itself. On the left, and also on the same surface, a candle with a flickering flame can be seen. Thus, in this work, the artist managed to include two images which synthesize some of his vital and creative constants. On the one hand, there is absolute dedication to work, represented by the candle. Similarly, the light emanating from the candle might be understood, in the case of this artist, as a symbol of the individual's intellectual clarity as well as the reality of the spirit that creatively illuminates the subject matter. On the other hand, also incorporated into this picture are the ideals of mystic rebirth and perfection, pursued by Luis Fernández throughout his life and work and which the flower embodies.

As far as the composition is concerned, it follows a carefully studied mathematical pattern, very much to the artist's liking. Firstly, and with respect to the left and right hand margins, the leitmotif appears to be perfectly centred. Then, it may be seen how the lower horizontal band is half the width of the band immediately above it, which, in turn, is half the width of that which is above it. In this way, the artist succeeds in creating a sensation of visual ascent, which is strengthened by the flickering flame of the candle. Similarly, the way in which one element, the candle, placed in a vertical position blends with another, thee rose, placed in a horizontal position, gives the painting an ideal rhythm, which, according to Fernández in his writings, should immerse the viewer in a state of exacerbation followed by one of tranquillity.

There is a record of the existence of a tracing similar to this picture from the same period, in which there are slight differences regarding the compartmentalization of the corolla and the casting of the flame of the candle.

Text: Alfonso Palacio Álvarez
Teacher of Art History. University of Oviedo

Luis Fernández (Oviedo, 1900-Paris, 1973)
Rose avec une bougie (Rose with a Candle), 1971-73
Indian ink and gouache on paper. 31,3 x 48,9 cm
Asturias Art Museum