On this "Famous Spanish Artists" page:
- a brief intro to Spanish art and what this website section will cover
- what makes Spanish art unique
- links in right column for a more in-depth look by period
Don Quixote and the Wind Turbines.
Famous Spanish artists, although deserving of real attention, are
surprisingly unfamiliar to many people. As I prepared to write this
article, I was quite taken aback to discover how difficult it was to
find recent serious reference works available - either on the internet
or even in major bookstores, either in English or in French. Unlike
French or Italian artists, who have whole sections of at least the FNAC
Montparnasse in Paris devoted to them, the Spanish artists are relegated
to scattered references in generalist art histories. When I appealed
to the art book vendor, she confirmed this was indeed the case, and then
told me she knew of only one rather densely academic work that wasn't
kept in stock, but that she could order for me...
How is that possible with names on the order of José de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, Alonso Cano, Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo or Francisco Goya, or closer to us, painters like Salvador Dali, Juan Miró or the giant many consider the greatest artist of modern times: Pablo Picasso?
"A White Horse", Diego Velázquez, between 1634 and 1635
Doing the research on Spain has been impassioning. It has a rich history, eloquent language and remarkable culture; these things all developed as they did largely owing to the Iberian peninsula forming something of a bridge between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. But I also came to understand that while Spain has unity in its having one language to talk in, there are multiple voices to express what Spain is.
Its art, for example, is powerful and memorable, dominated in its history often by the red and yellow ochres that strangely enough seem to be echoed in its national flag. Its civilization is ancient and distinctive; indeed there are famous prehistoric paintings on the Iberian peninsula that go back to the Upper Paleolithic - life-sized figures of prodigously realistic wild boars, horses and other animals grazing and leaping that were painted on cave walls somewhere between 20,000 and 8,000 BC.
"The Milkmaid of Bordeaux", Francisco Goya, between 1825 and 1827
But things get more complex than that - because behind the
"Spanish-ness" inherent in the art or civilization I was just talking
about, there is also a very great deal of variety, owing to the evolving
ideas, changing fashions, intellectual influences and - multiple
invasions. Roman, Carthiginian, Visigothic, Moorish and Christian
influences have all played their part in shaping this culture that has
had such an impact on world history. And impact it did have, with Spain
rising to become Europe's biggest power and holding the world's
greatest overseas empire for three centuries.
But we are here to talk about famous Spanish artists. And we will, starting with those cave painters and working our way up to Vázquez Díaz, Juan Gris or even the Equipo Crónica, a major collective of Spanish pop art. To get started, click on the links in the column to the right to start your stroll through the history of Spanish art.
And hasta la vista!