Spanish Painting

SPANISH ART MOTIVES: What may have been the early art of Spain we are at a loss to conjecture. The reigns of the Moor, the Iconoclast, and, finally, the Inquisitor, have left little that dates before the fourteenth century. The miniatures and sacred relics treasured in the churches and said to be of the apostolic period, show the traces of a much later date and a foreign origin. Even when we come down to the fifteenth century and meet with art produced in Spain, we have a following of Italy or the Netherlands. In methods and technic it was derivative more than original, though almost from the beginning peculiarly Spanish in spirit.

That spirit was a dark and savage one, a something that cringed under the lash of the Church, bowed before the Inquisition, and played the executioner with the paint-brush. The bulk of Spanish art was Church art, done under ecclesiastical domination, and done in form without question or protest. The religious subject ruled. True enough, there was portraiture of nobility, and under Philip and Velasquez a half-monarchical art of military scenes and genre; but this was not the bent of Spanish painting as a whole. Even in late days, when Velasquez was reflecting the haughty court, Murillo was more widely and nationally reflecting the believing provinces and the Church faith of the people. It is safe to say, in a general way, that the Church was responsible for Spanish art, and that religion was its chief motive.

There was no revived antique, little of the nude or the pagan, little of consequence in landscape, little, until Velasquez’s time, of the real and the actual. An ascetic view of life, faith, and the hereafter prevailed. The pietistic, the fervent, and the devout were not so conspicuous as the morose, the ghastly, and the horrible. The saints and martyrs, the crucifixions and violent deaths, were eloquent of the torture-chamber. It was more ecclesiasticism by blood and violence than Christianity by peace and love. And Spain welcomed this. For of all the children of the Church she was the most faithful to rule, crushing out heresy with an iron hand, gaining strength from the Catholic reaction, and upholding the Jesuits and the Inquisition.

METHODS OF PAINTING : Spanish art worthy of mention did not appear until the fifteenth century. At that time Spain was in close relations with the Netherlands, and Flemish painting was somewhat followed. How much the methods of the Van Eycks influenced Spain would be hard to determine, especially as these Northern methods were mixed with influences coming from Italy. Finally, the Italian example prevailed by reason of Spanish students in Italy and Italian painters in Spain. Florentine line, Venetian color, and Neapolitan light-and-shade ruled almost everywhere, and it was not until the time of Velasquez the period just before the eighteenth-century decline—that distinctly Spanish methods, founded on nature, really came forcibly to the front.

SPANISH SCHOOLS OF PAINTING: There is difficulty in classifying these schools of painting because our present knowledge of them is limited. Isolated somewhat from the rest of Europe, the Spanish painters have never been critically studied as the Italians have been, and what is at present known about the schools must be accepted subject to critical revision hereafter.

The earliest school seems to have been made up from a gathering of artists at Toledo, who limned, carved, and gilded in the cathedral ; but this school was not of long duration. It was merged into the Castilian school, which, after the building of Madrid, made its home in that capital and drew its forces from the towns of Toledo, Valladolid, and Badajoz. The Andalusian school, which rose about the middle of the sixteenth century, was made up from the local schools of Seville, Cordova, and Granada. The Valencian school, to the southeast, rose about the same time, and was finally merged into the Andalusian. The Aragonese school, to the east, was small and of no great consequence, though existing in a feeble way to the end of the seventeenth century. The painters of these schools are not very strongly marked apart by methods or school traditions, and perhaps the divisions would better be looked upon as more geographical than otherwise. None of the schools really began before the sixteenth century, though there are names of artists and some extant pictures before that date, and with the seventeenth century all art in Spain seems to have centred about Madrid.

Spanish painting started into life concurrently with the rise to prominence of Spain as a political kingdom. What, if any, direct effect the maritime discoveries, the conquests of Granada and Naples, the growth of literature, and the decline of Italy, may have had upon Spanish painting can only be conjectured ; but certainly the sudden advance of the nation politically and socially was paralleled by the advance of its art.

THE CASTILIAN SCHOOL: This school probably had no so-called founder. It was a growth from early art traditions at Toledo, and afterward became the chief school of the kingdom owing to the patronage of Philip II. and Philip IV. at Madrid. The first painter of importance in the school seems to have been Antonio Rineon (1446 ?–1500 ?). He is sometimes spoken of as the father of Spanish painting, and as having studied in Italy with Castagno and Ghirlandajo, but there is little foundation for either statement. He painted chiefly at Toledo, painted portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, and had some skill in hard drawing. Berruguete (1480 ?—1561) studied with Michael Angelo, and is supposed to have helped him in the Vatican. He afterward returned to Spain, painted many altar-pieces, and was patronized as painter, sculptor, and architect “by Charles V. and Philip II. He was probably the first to introduce pure Italian methods into Spain, with some coldness and dryness of coloring and handling. Becerra (1520?-1570) was born in Andalusia, but worked in Castile, and was a man of Italian training similar to Berruguete. He was an exceptional man, perhaps, in his use of mythological themes and nude figures.

There is not a great deal known about Morales (1509 ?-1586), called ” the Divine,” except that he was allied to the Castilian school, and painted devotional heads of Christ with the crown of thorns, and many afflicted and weeping madonnas. There was Florentine drawing in his work, great regard for finish, and something of Correggio’s softness in shadows pitched in a browner key. His sentiment was rather exaggerated. Sanchez-Coello (1513?-1590) was painter and courtier to Philip II., and achieved reputation as a portrait-painter, though also doing some altar-pieces. It is doubtful whether he ever studied in Italy, but in Spain he was for a time with Antonio Moro, and probably learned from him something of rich costumes, ermines, embroideries, and jewels, for which his portraits were remarkable. Navarette (1526 ?-1579), called “El Mudo ” (the dumb one), certainly was in Italy for something like twenty years, and was there a disciple of Titian, from whom he doubtless learned much of color and the free flow of draperies. He was one of the best of the middle-period painters. Theotocopuli (1548 ?-1625), called ” El Greco ” (the Greek), was another Venetian – influenced painter, with enough Spanish originality about him to make most of his pictures eccentric in color and drawing. Tristan (1586-1640) was his best follower.

Velasquez (1599-1660) is the greatest name in the history of Spanish painting. With him Spanish art took upon itself a decidedly naturalistic and national stamp. Before his time Italy had been freely imitated ; but though Velasquez himself was in Italy for quite a long time, and intimately acquainted with great Italian art, he never seemed to have been led away from his own individual way of seeing and doing. He was a pupil of Herrera, afterward with Pacheco, and learned much from Ribera and Tristan, but more from a direct study of nature than from all the others. He was in a broad sense a realist—a man who recorded the material and the actual without emendation or transposition. He has never been surpassed in giving the solidity and sub-stance of form and the placing of objects in atmosphere. And this, not in a small, finical way, but with a breadth and a nobility of treatment which are to-day the despair of painters. There was nothing of the ethereal, the spiritual, the pietistic, or the pathetic about him. He never for a moment left the firm basis of reality. Standing upon earth he recorded the truths of the earth, but in their largest, fullest, most universal forms.

Technically his was a master-hand, doing all things with ease, giving exact relations of colors and lights, and placing everything so perfectly that no addition or alteration is thought of. With the brush he was light, easy, sure. The surface looks as though touched once, no more. It is the perfection of handling through its simplicity and certainty, and has not the slightest trace of affectation or mannerism. He was one of the few Spanish painters who were enabled to shake off the yoke of the Church. Few of his canvases are religious in subject. Under royal patron-age he passed almost all of his life in painting portraits of the royal family, ministers of state, and great dignitaries. As a portrait-painter he is more widely known than as a figure-painter. Nevertheless he did many canvases like The Tapestry Weavers and The Surrender at Breda, which attest his remarkable genius in that field ; and even in landscape, in genre, in animal painting, he was a very superior man. In fact Velasquez is one of the few great painters in European history for whom there is nothing but praise. He was the full-rounded complete painter, intensely individual and self-assertive, and yet in his art recording in a broad way the Spanish type and life. He was the climax of Spanish painting, and after him there was a rather swift decline, as had been the case in the Italian schools.

Mazo (1610?-1667), pupil and son-in-law of Velasquez, was one of his most facile imitators, and Carreno de Miranda (1614–1685) was influenced by Velasquez, and for a time his assistant. The Castilian school may be said to have closed with these late men and with Claudio Coello (1635 ?–1693), a painter with a style founded on Titian and Rubens, whose best work was of extraordinary power. Spanish painting went out with Spanish power, and only isolated men of small rank remained.

ANDALUSIAN SCHOOL: This school came into existence about the middle of the sixteenth century. Its chief centre was at Seville, and its chief patron the Church rather than the king. Vargas (1502-1568) was probably the real founder of the school, though De Castro (fl. 1454) and others preceded him. Vargas was a man of much reputation and ability in his time, and introduced Italian methods and elegance into the Andalusian school after twenty odd years of residence in Italy. He is said to have studied under Perino del Vaga, and there is some sweetness of face and grace of form about his work that point that way, though his corn-position suggests Correggio. Most of his frescos have perished ; some of his canvases are still in existence.

Cespedes (1538 ?–1608) is little known through extant works, but he achieved fame in many departments during his life, and is said to have been in Italy under Florentine influence. His coloring was rather cold, and his drawing large and flat. The best early painter of the school was Roelas (1558 ?–1625), the inspirer of Murillo and the master of Zurbaran. He is supposed to have studied at Venice, because of his rich, glowing color. Most of his works are religious and are found chiefly at Seville. He was greatly patronized by the Jesuits. Pacheco (1571–1654) was more of a pedant than a painter, a man of rule, who to-day might be written down an academician. His work was dry, and perhaps the best reason for his being remembered is that he was one of the masters and the father-in-law of Velasquez. His rival, Herrera the Elder (1576 ?–1656) was a stronger man—in fact, the most original artist of his school. He struck off by himself and created a bold realism with a broad brush that anticipated Velasquez—in fact, Velasquez was under him for a time.

The pure Spanish school in Andalusia, as distinct from Italian imitation, may be said to have started with Herrera. It was further advanced by another independent painter, Zurbaran (1598-1662), a pupil of Roelas. He was a painter of the emaciated monk in ecstasy, and many other rather dismal religious subjects expressive of tortured rapture. From using a rather dark shadow he acquired the name of the Spanish Caravaggio. He had a good deal of Caravaggio’s strength, together with a depth and breadth of color suggestive of the Venetians. Cano (1601-1667), though he never was in Italy, had the name of the Spanish Michael Angelo, probably because he was sculptor, painter, and architect. His painting was rather sharp in. line and statuesque in pose, with a coloring somewhat like that of Van Dyck. It was eclectic rather than original work.

Murillo (1618—1682) is generally placed at the head of the Andalusian school, as Velasquez at the head of the Castilian. There is good reason for it, for though Murillo was not the great painter he was sometime supposed, yet he was not the weak man his modern critics would make him out. A religious painter largely, though doing some genre subjects like his beggar-boy groups, he sought for religious fervor and found, only too often, sentimentality. His madonnas are usually after the Carlo Dolci pattern, though never so excessive in sentiment. This was not the case with his earlier works, mostly of humble life, which were painted in rather a hard, positive manner. Later on he became misty, veiled in light and effeminate in outline, though still holding grace. His color varied with his early and later styles. It was usually gay and a little thin. While basing his work on nature like Velasquez, he never had the supreme poise of that master, either mentally or technically ; howbeit he was an excellent painter, who perhaps justly holds second place in Spanish art.

SCHOOL OF VALENCIA : This school rose contemporary with the Andalusian school, into which it was finally merged after the importance of Madrid had been established. It was largely modelled upon Italian painting, as indeed were all the schools of Spain at the start. Juan de Joanes (1523 ?–1579) apparently was its founder, a man who painted a good portrait, but in other respects was only a fair imitator of Raphael, whom he had studied at Rome. A stronger man was Francisco de Ribalta (I550 ?-1628), who was for a time in Italy under the Caracci, and learned from them free draughtsmanship and elaborate composition. He was also fond of Sebastiano del Piombo, and in his best works (at Valencia) reflected him. Ribalta gave an early training to Ribera (1588-1656), who was the most important man of this school. In reality Ribera was more Italian than Valencian, for he spent the greater part of his life in Italy, where he was called Lo Spagnoletto, and was greatly influenced by Caravaggio. He was a Spaniard in the horrible subjects that he chose, but in coarse strength of line, heaviness of shadows, harsh handling of the brush, he was a true Neapolitan Darkling. A pronounced mannerist he was no less a man of strength, and even in his shadow-saturated colors a painter with the color instinct. In Italy his influence in the time of the Decadence was wide-spread, and in Spain his Italian pupil, Giordano, introduced his methods for late imitation. There were no other men of much rank in the Valencian school, and, as has been said, the school was eventually merged in Andalusian painting.

EIGHTEENTH- AND NINETEENTH-CENTURY PAINTING IN SPAIN : Almost directly after the passing of Velasquez and Murillo Spanish art failed. The eighteenth-century, as in Italy, was quite barren of any considerable art until near its close. Then Goya (1746–1828) seems to have made a partial restoration of painting. He was a man of peculiarly Spanish turn of mind, fond of the brutal and the bloody, picturing inquisition scenes, bull-fights, battle pieces, and revelling in caricature, sarcasm, and ridicule. His imagination was grotesque and horrible, but as a painter his art was based on the natural, and was exceedingly strong. In brush-work he followed Velasquez ; in a peculiar forcing of contrasts in light and dark he was apparently quite himself, though possibly influenced by Ribera’s work. His best work shows in his portraits and etchings.

After Goya’s death Spanish art, such as it was, rather followed France, with the extravagant classicism of David as a model. What was produced may be seen to this day in the Madrid Museum. It does not call for mention here. About the beginning of the 1860′s Spanish painting made a new advance with Mariano Fortuny (1838–1874). In his early years he worked at historical painting, but later on he went to Algiers and Rome, finding his true vent in a bright sparkling painting of genre subjects, oriental scenes, streets, interiors, single figures, and the like. He excelled in color, sunlight effects, and particularly in a vivacious facile hand-ling of the brush. His work is brilliant, and in his late productions often spotty from excessive use of points of light in high color. He was a technician of much brilliancy and originality, his work exciting great admiration in his day, and leading the younger painters of Spain into that ornate handling visible in their works at the present time. Many of these latter, from association with art and artists in Paris, have adopted French methods, and hardly show such a thing as Spanish nationality. Fortuny’s brother-in-law, Madrazo (1841-), is an example of a Spanish painter turned French in his methods—a facile and brilliant portrait-painter. Zamacois (1842—1871) died early, but with a reputation as a successful portrayer of seventeenth-century subjects a little after the style of Meissonier and not unlike Gerome. He was a good colorist and an excellent painter of textures.

The historical scene of Mediaeval or Renaissance times, pageants and fetes with rich costume, fine architecture and vivid effects of color, are characteristic of a number of the modern Spaniards—Villegas, Pradilla, Alvarez. As a general thing their canvases are a little flashy, likely to please at first sight but grow wearisome after a time. Palmaroli has a style that resembles a mixture of Fortuny and Meissonier ; and some other painters, like Luis Jiminez Aranda, Sorolla, Roman Ribera, and Domingo, have done creditable work. In landscape and Venetian scenes Rico leads among the Spaniards with a vivacity and brightness not always seen to good advantage in his late canvases.

PRINCIPAL WORKS: Generally speaking, Spanish art cannot be seen to advantage outside of Spain. Both its ancient and modern masterpieces are at Madrid, Seville, Toledo, and elsewhere. The Royal Gallery at Madrid has the most and the best examples.

CASTILIAN SCHOOL—Rincon, altar-piece church of Robleda de Chavilla ; Berruguete, altar-pieces Saragossa, Valladolid, Madrid, Toledo ; Morales, Madrid and Louvre ; Sanchez-Coello, Madrid and Brussels Mus.; Navarette, Escorial, Madrid, St. Petersburg; Theotocopuli, Cathedral and S. Tome Toledo, Madrid Mus.; Velasquez, best works in Madrid Mus., Escorial, Salamanca, Seville, Montpensier Gals., Infanta Marguerita Louvre, Borro portrait (?) Berlin, Innocent X. Doria Rome ; Mazo, landscapes Madrid Mus.; Carreno de Miranda, Madrid Mus.; Claudio Coello, Escorial, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, and Munich Mus.

ANDALUSIAN SCHOOL—Vargas, Seville Cathedral ; Cespedes, Cordova Cathedral ; Roelas, S. Isidoro Cathedral, Museum Seville ; Pacheco, Madrid Mus.; Herrera, Seville Cathedral and Mus. and Archbishop’s Palace, Dresden Mus.; Zurbaran, Seville Cathedral and Mus. Madrid, Dresden, Louvre, Nat. Gal. Lon.; Cano, Madrid, Seville Mus. and Cathedral, Berlin, Dresden, Munich ; Murillo, best pictures in Madrid Mus. and Acad. of S. Fernando Madrid, Seville Mus. Hospital and Capuchin Church, Louvre, Nat. Gal. Lon., Dresden, Munich, Hermitage.

VALENCIAN SCHOOL—Juan de Joanes, Madrid Mus., Cathedral Valencia, Hermitage ; Ribalta, Madrid and Valencian Mus., Hermitage ; Ribera, Louvre, Nat. Gal. Lon., Dresden, Naples, Hermitage, and other European museums, chief works at Madrid.

MODERN MEN AND THEIR WORKS—Goya, Madrid Mus., Acad. of S. Fernando, Valencian Cathedral and Mus., two portraits in Louvre. The works of the contemporary painters are largely in private hands where reference to them is of little use to the average student. Thirty Fortunys are in the collection of William H. Stewart in Paris. His best work, The Spanish Marriage, belongs to Madame de Cassin, in Paris. Examples of Villegas, Madrazo, Rico, Domingo, and others, in the Vanderbilt Gallery, Metropolitan Mus., New York; Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia Mus.