When thinking about European art history, Italy or France usually first come to mind. However, Spain is not to be overlooked. The country has a significant and rich cultural heritage focused around many eclectic types of art.
Spanish art has a lengthy and storied history. Its beginnings go back to paintings dating to the Paleolithic age and discovered in the Altamira Cave in northern Spain, along with rock art paintings of the Iberian Mediterreanan Basin. Even today, Spain’s artistic legacy can be viewed at museums and monuments, including in Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao.
Artistic Beginnings Early on, Spanish art was influenced by the arrivals of the Romans, Greeks, Visigoths, Arabs, and Berbers. Then, it would be shaped by historic periods and personal approaches, from the Renaissance, to the Spanish Golden Age, to Mannerism, and then Baroque.
In the 18th century, Baroque painting would continue with the patronage of the royal Bourbon dynasty, with a focus on French-oriented styles. Toward the end of the 18th century, romanticism began to flourish as a form of Spanish art, with subjects highlighting human emotion and elements of nature.
One prominent painter for the Royal Court was Francisco Goya, whose works would span four ruling monarchies. He created tapestry cartoons, with his earliest works involving colorful depictions of everyday life and festivals. Interestingly, his piece, “The Blind Guitarist,” was found by tapestry weavers to be too difficult to make, so its design was adjusted.
Goya also captured the tragedies of his time in tapestries, with scenes relating to conflict and death. From 1810 to 1820, he produced “The Disasters of War,” a series of 85 prints reflecting the atrocities of war and Spain’s struggle for independence from France.
Changing Directions In the 19th century, Spanish painters would adopt artistic methods from other European destinations, traveling to receive tutelage. Originating in France, impressionism carried over into Spain; works reflected the worlds in which artists lived in and applied light and color for definition. A leading figure in this impressionism was the Velencian painter Joaquín Sorolla. He made his mark in figure subjects, portraits and landscapes such as sun-drenched beach scenes.
Symbolism involves imagery and symbols for the painter to convey emotion and feeling. Néstor Martín-Fernández de la Torre, a painter from the Canary Islands, is noted for his work in symbolism and Art Deco.
Cubism and PicassoIn the early 20th century, cubism would take hold. This artform involves abstract imagery that does not rely on a single impression. Instead, it features fragmentation, with multiple depictions of objects and geometrical shapes representing different viewpoints.
Cubism is often linked to Pablo Picasso, who is also noted for his other stages of work, ranging from his “Blue Period” to his “Rose Period.” Along with his featured pieces in various museums in Spain, Picasso is of course the focus of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. The Museo Picasso Málaga is located in the town in which he’s from. This Beeyonder virtual experience delves deep into this seaside town, rich in history and natural beauty.
Surrealism in Spanish ArtOther top Spanish artists include Salvador Dalí, who put surrealism on the map. Being avant garde, surrealism involves bringing forth the human elements of dreams and the subconsciousness.
Dalí, who was born in Figueres, is noted for works such as “The Persistence of Memory.” Having the ocean as its backdrop, this iconic painting features watches melting slowly on rocks and the branch of a tree. In Figueres, the Dalí Theatre-Museum celebrates his life and work.
Joan Miró, a painter and ceramist from Barcelona, has also been recognized for his surrealist pieces, including “The Tilled Field” and “Harlequin’s Carnival” but also he delved into Dadaism. Dadaism, which originated during World War I, reflects upon everyday objects that can be manipulated to reflect emotions such as political undertones. Learn more at Miró via Fundació Joan Miró, a hilltop museum in Barcelona.
The Influence of Gaudí Architecture also is significant in Spanish culture, with Spain’s most noted architect being Antoni Gaudí. Influenced by Neo-gothic, art nouveau and modernism, Gaudí designed some of Barcelona’s most eye-catching buildings, including Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and Col·legi de les Teresianes.
His most famous is Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, a monumental church honoring the Holy Family. Gaudí started working on this project when he was 31 and spent 12 years focusing solely on it. Sadly, he died before its completion.
Learn more about the basilica on this Beeyonder virtual tour along with an experience focusing on the illuminance of light filtration through its colored glass windows. Beeyonder has other Spain-related cultural virtual tours involving the Alhambra, Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum, and Madrid’s architecture.
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