Luis Paret Returns to Bermeo
The extraordinary View of Bermeo by Luis Paret y Alcázar, on view at Arrantzaleen Museoa
Today the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and Arrantzaleen Museoa presented the exhibition Paret Bermeon, which will feature the work View of Bermeo (1783) by the painter Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid, 1746–1799). From now until 2 September, visitors to Arrantzaleen Museoa will be able to admire the port of Bermeo and its buildings as Paret saw them in 1783, when he stayed in this coastal town in the province of Bizkaia.
Several months ago, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and the Provincial Council of Bizkaia joined forces to organise “The Art Route”, an initiative sponsored by BBK that offered people throughout Bizkaia a chance to admire and explore the museum's collection. This travelling exhibition, featuring 40 high-quality reproductions of masterpieces from the collection, went on the road for five months and visited nearly 60 towns and cities in Bizkaia with the ultimate aim of making art more accessible to citizens.
This spirit of collaboration has now given rise to the exhibition Paret Bermeon, produced in partnership with Arrantzaleen Museoa in Bermeo, where View of Bermeo (1783)—a work acquired by the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in 2017 thanks to the sponsorship of BBK and the contributions of the Friends of the Museum—will be shown in the very place where the artist painted it, revealing the full extent of its historical and topographical value.
The presence of this original Paret painting in a show that bears his name in this seaside town was made possible by the collaboration of the two Bizkaia art institutions: the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and Arrantzaleen Museoa in Bermeo.
The idea for the exhibition came about when the two museums began to exchange information on the work, as this masterpiece of the Spanish Rococo period is one of the earliest known views of Bermeo and therefore constitutes a valuable record of the town's evolution over the centuries.
The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum purchased this painting in 2017 thanks to the sponsorship of BBK and the contributions of the Friends of the Museum. View of Bermeo, 1873 by Luis Paret is not only one of the finest specimens of 18th-century Spanish painting, but also the first modern, purely artistic depiction of a Basque locality. Born the same year as Goya, Paret lived in Bilbao from 1779 to at least 1787. He composed this vista as a social encounter, lending dignity to local types and customs, and in the process creating a visual record without precedent in the Basque Country at that time. The work was painted in 1783 for the future King Charles IV, then the crown prince and son of King Charles III, and adorned his country estate at El Escorial. It was a pendant piece to another view of Bermeo, showing the port during a storm, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
The painting at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is a near-perfect rendering of the old port that takes in the panoramic view from the cliff, sweeping from the Gothic church of Santa Eufemia on the left to the Ercilla tower/house (in the centre of the composition) and ending at the ruins of the vanished church of Santa María de la Atalaya on the right. With exquisitely detailed, painstaking brushstrokes (the Dos Caños fountain and the steep steps of Utsa are easily recognisable), the painter recreated the rugged terrain of the Basque coastline with singular lighting and atmospheric effects.
In the room where the work is displayed, the details of this painting, its author and how it was made are explained in texts in Basque, Spanish, French and English, and a multi-touch screen allows visitors to discover fascinating features they would not normally notice. Moreover, an information panel has been installed on the exact spot in the port of Bermeo where Luis Paret painted his work, so that everyone who stops there can become better acquainted with this iconic work for the town of Bermeo and compare it with the present-day view.
Wednesday, 29 August, 7 pm. Lecture: “Luis Paret in the Basque Country”
Javier Novo, Head of the Collections Department at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
Arrantzaleen Museoa. Ertzila dorrea. Torrontero enparantza – 48370 Bermeo
Tel. (+34) 94 688 11 71 email@example.com
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 am–2 pm and 4–7 pm. Sundays and holidays: 10 am–2 pm. Closed on Mondays
General: €3.50, reduced: €1.75, free on Saturdays