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.
As a city built upon many islands within a lagoon, Venice has witnessed a lot of changes since its founding in the fifth century AD.
Located in northeastern Italy, Venice has evolved from its origin as settlements, to becoming a major republic, a busy port city, and popular tourism destination. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its architectural and artistic legacy.
While Venice is definitely a destination to behold, this “City of Water” has been facing problems that can have long-standing consequences.
Along with issues relating to mass tourism and a decline in its residential population, Venice is continuously subject to the threat of rising waters and resulting flooding. The latter impact is being driven by factors such as rising sea levels from climate change and equally-impacted natural causes.
The old adage that Venice is sinking, due to the city being positioned above shifting tectonic plates, is true. Another concern points to a seasonal period that Venice undergoes, known as “acqua alta.”
Translated in English as “high water,” this weather-related phenomenon is caused by the combination of a high tide from the neighboring Adriatic sea, a storm, and sirocco winds propelling heavy water into the Venetian lagoon. Acqua alta usually occurs in the fall.
Acqua alta causes flooding to develop in Venice in low level areas such as around St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco.
In response to acqua alta, planks are placed down for people to walk over to get out of the water. Or, if possible, they try to obtain boots to wear. Sirens are also activated as a public alert system.
In November 2019, Venice experienced severe flooding with a tide that rose more than six feet. It was reported to be the highest level of its kind in fifty years. The flooding was said to have impacted more than eighty percent of the city and caused saltwater-related damage inside St. Mark’s Basilica.
While acqua alta is an act of nature, man made causes have also changed the environment surrounding Venice.
Overall, the Venetian lagoon is a vast ecosystem in the Mediterranean. According to a Nature scientific reports article, the lagoon’s inhabitants have modified its natural surroundings overtime for various needs and development ranging from developing storm protection barriers to reclaiming land for commercial usage.
For example, in the 1960s, there was the dredging of a deep canal on the lagoon’s sea floor in order to accommodate oil tankers.
The Nature article also reported that the lagoon has experienced a substantial loss of sediment and land over decades.
Another public concern for Venice is the impact of mass tourism, in which media articles have reported on crowd strain. Tourism ceased in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic shutting down travel, which resulted in Venice’s canal waters being clearer than reported to have been for a long time.
A potential engineering solution is getting closer to completion, but its effectiveness is being debated due to its lengthy development and increasing risk of rising sea levels. The MOSE project (which stands for “Experimental Electromechanical Module”) consists of a series of mobile barriers placed at the lagoon inlets of Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia to safeguard Venice from high tides. Lido will receive a total of 21 gates, while Malamocco will hold 19 and Chioggia will possess 18.
Initially designed during the 1980s and approved by the Italian government in 2003, MOSE had its first test run in July 2020, a year after the severe flooding in Venice. Along with the slowness of its progression, the project has been subject to criticism due to going over budget and corruption. Its projected completion is said to happen in late 2021.
Another point of concern has to do with cruise ships that dock in Venice. In spring 2021, the Italian government voted to ban cruise ships and large commercial vessels from entering Venice’s historic port and called for a new cruise port to be constructed. The results of these measures are yet to be seen.
Yet, Venice is still a destination to learn much about, which can be done right from your screen at home. Beeyonder offers multiple engaging and sustainable options to discover more about Venice:
Iconic Venice takes you on a virtual stroll over the Rialto Bridge and into the neighborhood of the same name.
Venice’s Jewish Quarter experience explores the city’s rich heritage on a tour through the lively Cannaregio neighborhood. During the 16th century, this area became the world’s first Jewish ghetto.
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