Ignacio Zuloaga (Éibar, 1870 - Madrid, 1945) is one of the last masters from the Spanish School. His iconography is considered an accurate portrayal of what the writer Miguel de Unamuno called "the internal history of Spain." Beyond the naturalist will, Zuloaga seeks the character of a people. For this reason, his paintings about Black Spain provoke controversy: in the newspaper El Imparcial José Ortega y Gasset declared in 1911: "Zuloaga is a great artist because he has the art of raising the tragic Spanish theme."
El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía exhibits the eighteen paintings by the Basque painter belonging to its collection. The pieces will leave the Museum for the first time and will be subsequently exhibited together in Granada and Seville.
Zuloaga’s vocation as a painter is reaffirmed when he visits the Prado Museum. Rome and Paris are places of training, although he travels throughout Europe and makes several visits to Spain. In 1893 he moves to Seville, where he begins a new period, which lasts until the beginning of the century. This stage is called "The White Spain", in contrast to his later work. Gypsies, florists, flamenco women or bullfighters are the main characters in his compositions. The painting Antonia la gallega (1912), contains most of the features from Zuloaga's work during these years: soft and contrasting colours, outdoor paintings, attention to detail and blurred shapes.
Don Plácido Zuloaga en su taller (1895) is a portrait of his father working at his job as a goldsmith. The work reveals a substantial change in style, while the theme is still the representation of the human figure inside, a constant throughout his production. The first years of the century are, for the painter, a time to define his own artistic language. The theme focuses on the customs of Spanish life and the surroundings in an attempt to capture the reality of a country, as the writers of the Generation of 98 also try to do. From this period Celestina (1906) combines figure and landscape and Torerillos de pueblo (1906) is one of the painter’s greatest compositions with a bull-fighting theme.
Because he delves deep into Spanish roots he generates canvases with hard lines and a sombre palette, such as Segoviano (1906), a symbol of rural Spain. El Cristo de la sangre (1911), one of his most acclaimed compositions, follows this personal trend of his mature style, which brings the artist international recognition.
During his visits to Paris he produces paintings that are distanced from the sober black Spain. Examples of this are El violinista Larrapidi (1910) and the Retrato de la señora Malinowska (la rusa) (1912). From 1914, Zuloaga focuses on landscape and portrait, but also the female nude. From this time we have Mi prima Cándida (1914), one of the main compositions by the painter, the Retrato de la señorita L. S. (1915) and Desnudo (1915).
Zuloaga, an expert on Spanish territory, also paints urban landscapes. In Viejas Casas de Segovia (1917) y Casas de Segovia (1917) he represents the facades in a city that inspires him throughout his entire career. Also in this exhibition is Paisaje de Alhama (1923), evidence of his interest in landscape in the most traditional sense.
His portrait facet intensifies during the Twenties. The pieces Alice Lotita Muth Maacha (1920-25), Retrato del pintor Uranga (1931) and Retrato del pintor Balenciaga (1930-34) are proof of Zuloaga's mastery in this genre; they close the exhibition of pieces belonging to the Museo Reina Sofia Collection. This collection is among the most important cultural heritage of Ignacio Zuloaga’s production because of its size and importance.
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