MoboReader> Literature > Promenades of an Impressionist

   Chapter 12 No.12

Promenades of an Impressionist By James Huneker Characters: 50800

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was born March 30 (or 31), 1746, at Fuentetodos, near Saragossa, Aragon. He died at Bordeaux, France, where he had gone for his health, April 16, 1828-Calvert, possibly by a pen slip, makes him expire a month earlier. He saw the beginnings of French romanticism, as he was himself a witness of the decadence of Spanish art. But his spirit has lived on in Manet and Zuloaga. Decadent he was; a romantic before French romanticism, he yet had borrowed from an earlier France. Some of his gay Fêtes Champêtres recall the influence of Watteau-a Watteau without the sweet elegiac strain. He has been called a Spanish Hogarth-not a happy simile. Hogarth preaches; Goya never; satirists both, Goya never deepened by a pen stroke the didactic side. His youth was not extraordinary in promise; his father and mother were poor peasants. The story of his discovery by a monk of Saragosela-Father Felix Salvador of the Carthusian convent of Aula Dei-is not missing. He studied with José Martinez. He ran away in 1766. He remained, say some, in Italy from 1769 to 1774; but in 1771 he appeared in Saragossa again, and the year 1772 saw him competing for the painting about to be undertaken in the cathedral. He married Josefa Bayeu, the sister of the court painter. He has told us what he thought of his jealous, intriguing brother-in-law in a portrait. In 1775 he was at Madrid. From 1776 he executed forty-six tapestry cartoons. In 1779 he presented to the king his etchings after Velasquez. His rise was rapid. He painted the queen, with her false teeth, false hair, and her infernal simper, and this portrait was acclaimed a masterpiece.

His religious frescoes, supposed to be ad majorem Dei gloriam, were really for the greater glory of Goya. They are something more than secular, often little short of blasphemous. That they were tolerated proves the cynical temper of his times. When the fat old scoundrel of a Bourbon king ran away with all his court and the pusillanimous Joseph Bonaparte came upon the scene, Goya swerved and went through the motions of loyalty, a thing that rather disturbs the admirers of the supposedly sturdy republican. But he was only marking time. He left a terrific arraignment of war and its horrors. Nor did he spare the French. Callot, Hell-Breughel, are outdone in these swift, ghastly memoranda of misery, barbarity, rapine, and ruin. The hypocrite Ferdinand VII was no sooner on the throne of his father than Goya, hat in hand but sneer on lip and twinkle in eye, approached him, and after some parleying was restored to royal favour. Goya declared that as an artist he was not personally concerned in the pranks of the whirligig politic. Nevertheless he was bitterly chagrined at the twist of events, and, an old man, he retired to his country house, where he etched and designed upon its walls startling fancies. He died disillusioned, and though nursed by some noble countrymen, his career seemed to illustrate that terrifying picture of his invention-a skeleton lifts its gravestone and grinningly traces with bony finger in the dust the word Nada-Nothing! Overtaxed by the violence of his life and labours-he left a prodigious amount of work behind him-soured by satiety, all spleen and rage, he was a broken-down Lucifer, who had trailed his wings in the mud. But who shall pass judgment upon this unhappy man? Perhaps, as he saw the "glimmering square" grow less, the lament of Cardinal Wolsey may have come to a brain teeming with memories. Goya had always put his king before his God. But in his heart he loved the old romantic faith-the faith that hovered in the background of his art. Goya is not the first son of his mother church who denied her from sheer perversity. What a nation! Cervantes and Lope da Vega, Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada-most glorious of her sex, saint and genius-and Goya! Spain is the land of great and diverse personalities. But with Calderon we must now say: "Let us to our ship, for here all is shadowy and unsettled."

Goya, as Baudelaire pointed out more than half a century ago, executed his etchings by combining aquatint and the use of the dry point. A few years before his death he took up lithography, then a novelty. His Caprices, Proverbs, and Horrors of War may outlive his paintings. His colour scheme was not a wide one, blacks, reds, browns, and yellows often playing solo; but all modern impressionism may be seen on his canvases-harsh dissonances, dots, dabs, spots, patches, heavy planes, strong rhythmic effects of lighting, heavy impasto, luminous atmosphere, air, sunshine, and vibrating movements; also the strangeness of his material. Manet went to him a beginner. After studying the Maja desnuda at the Prado Museum he returned to France and painted the Olympe, once of the Luxembourg, now in the Louvre. The balcony scenes of Goya, with their manolas-old-fashioned grisettes-must have stirred Manet; recall the Frenchman's Balcony. And the bull-fights? Oh! what an iron-souled master was there-Goya when he slashed a bull in the arena tormented by the human brutes! None of his successors matches him. The same is the case with that diverting, devilish, savoury, and obscene series he called Caprices. It is worth remembering that Delacroix was one of the first artists in Paris who secured a set of these rare plates. The witch's sabbaths and the modern version of them, prostitution and its symbolism, filled the brain of Goya. He always shocks any but robust nerves with his hybrid creatures red in claw and foaming at mouth as they fight in midair, hideous and unnamable phantoms of the dark. His owls are theologians. The females he often shows make us turn aside our head and shudder. With implacable fidelity he displayed the reverse of war's heroic shield. It is something more than hell.

Sattler, Charlet, Raffet, James Ensor, Rethel, De Groux, Rops, Edvard Münch (did you ever see his woman wooed by a skeleton?), and the rest of these delineators of the morbid and macabre acknowledge Goya as their progenitor. He must have been a devil-worshipper. He pictures the goat devil, horns and hoofs. Gautier compares him to E.T.W. Hoffmann-Poe not being known in Paris at that time-but it is a rather laboured comparison, for there was a profoundly human side to the Spaniard. His perception of reality was of the solidest. He had lived and loved and knew before Flaubert that if the god of the Romantics was an upholsterer the god of eighteenth-century Spain was an executioner. The professed lover of the Duchess of Alba, he painted her nude, and then, hearing that the Duke might not like the theme so handled, he painted her again, and clothed, but more insolently uncovered than before. At the Spanish museum in New York you may see another portrait of this bold beauty with the name of Goya scratched in the earth at her feet. Her attitude is characteristic of the intrigue, which all Madrid knew and approved. At home sat Mrs. Goya with her twenty children.

Goya was a man of striking appearance. Slender in youth, a graceful dancer, in middle life he had the wide shoulders and bull neck of an athlete. He was the terror of Madrile?an husbands. His voice had seductive charm. He could twang the guitar and fence like ten devils. A gamester, too. In a word, a figure out of the Renaissance, when the deed trod hard on the heels of the word. One of his self-portraits shows him in a Byronic collar, the brow finely proportioned, marked mobile features, sombre eyes-the ideal Don Juan Tenorio to win the foolish heart of an Emma Bovary or a bored noblewoman. Another, with its savage eye-it is a profile-and big beaver head-covering, recalls Walt Whitman's "I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out." A giant egoist, and as human, all too human, a fellow as Spain ever begot, Goya is only hinted at in Baudelaire's searching quatrain beginning: "Goya, cauchemar plein de choses inconnues." Fleurs du Mal would be a happy title for the work of Francisco Goya if to "The Flowers of Evil" were added "and Wisdom." Goya is often cruel and lascivious and vulgar, but he is as great a philosopher as painter. And to offset his passionate gloom there are his visions of a golden Spain no longer in existence; happy, gorgeous of costume, the Spain of sudden coquetries, of fans, masques, bull-fights, and fandangos, of a people dancing on the rim of a fire-filled mountain, pious, capricious, child-like, romantic, and patriotic-the Spain of the eighteenth century. Goya is its spokesman, as is Velasquez the mirror of Philip's more spacious times. Velasquez-Goya! poles asunder, yet both born to the artistic purple. And the stately aristocrat who signed himself Velasquez is not more in tune with the twentieth-century Zeitgeist than that coarse-fibred democrat of genius, Francisco Goya.


Mariano Fortuny: what a magic-breeding name! The motto of this lucky Spanish painter might have been "Fortuny Fortunatus." Even his sudden death, at the early age of thirty-six, came after he had executed a number of masterpieces, an enormous quantity of water-colours, etchings, ceramics, damascene swords and chased ornaments; it followed on the heels of sudden glory. His name was in the mouth of artistic Europe, and the sale of the contents of his studio at Rome in 1875 brought eight hundred thousand francs. Yet so slippery is fame that Fortuny's name to-day is seldom without a brace of epithets, such as "garish," or "empty." His work is neither. He is a virtuoso. So was Tiepolo. He is a Romantic; so the generation preceding him. The Orientalist par excellence, he has somehow been confounded with Meissonier and Gér?me, has been called glittering like the former, hard as was the latter. It is true there are no emotional undertones in his temperament, the brilliant overtones predominating; but it is also true that when he died his manner was changing. He had said that he was tired of the "gay rags" of the eighteenth century, and his Strand of Portici shows a new line of departure. Edouard Manet made special appeal to Fortuny; Manet, who had derived from Goya, whose Spanish fond is undeniable. Perhaps the thrice-brilliant Fortuny's conscience smote him when he saw a Frenchman so successfully absorbing the traditions of Goya; but it was not to be. He passed away at the very top of his renown, truly a favourite of the gods. He was admired, imitated, above all parodied; though, jealously as are his pictures guarded, he has been put on the shelf like one of the amazing painted bibelots in his work.

The injustice of this is patent. Between Fortuny and Meissonier there lies the gulf that separates the genius and the hard-working man of talent. Nevertheless Meissonier's statue is in the garden of the Louvre, Meissonier is extolled as a master, while Fortuny is usually described in patronising terms as a facile trifler. The reverse is the truth. No one has painted sunlight with more intensity; he was an impressionist before the word was coined. He is a colourist almost as sumptuous as Monticelli, with a precision of vision never attained by the Marseilles rhapsodist. His figures are as delicious as Watteau's or Debucourt's-he recalls the latter frequently-and as an Orientalist he ranks all but a few. Gér?me, Guillaumet, Fromentin, Huguet are not to be mentioned in the same breath with Fortuny as to the manipulation of material; and has Guillaumet done anything savouring more of the mysterious East than Fortuny's At the Gate of the Seraglio? The magician of jewelled tones, he knew all the subtler modulations. His canvases vibrate, they emit sparks of sunlight, his shadows are velvety and warm. Compared with such a picture as The Choice of a Model, the most laboriously minute Meissonier is as cold and dead as a photograph-Meissonier, who was a capital fan painter, a patient miniaturist without colour talent, a myopic delineator of costumes, who, as Manet said, pasted paper soldiers on canvas and called the machine a battle-field.

The writer recalls the sensations once evoked by a close view of Fortuny's Choice of a Model at Paris years ago, and at that time in the possession of Mr. Stewart. Psychology is not missing in this miracle of virtuosity; the nude posing on the marble table, the absolute beauty of the drawing, the colouring, the contrast of the richly variegated marble pillars in the background, the eighteenth-century costumes of the Academicians so scrupulously yet so easily set forth, all made a dazzling ensemble. Since Fortuny turned the trick a host of spurious pictures has come overseas, and we now say "Vibert" at the same time as "Fortuny," just as some enlightened persons couple the names of Ingres and Bouguereau. In the kingdom of the third rate the mediocre is conqueror.

Listen to this description of La Vicaria (The Spanish Wedding), which first won for its painter his reputation. Begun in 1868, it was exhibited at Goupil's, Paris, the spring of 1870 (some say 1869), when the artist was thirty-two years old. Théophile Gautier-whose genius and Théodore de Banville's have analogies with Fortuny's in the matter of surfaces and astounding virtuosity-went up in the air when he saw the work, and wrote a feuilleton that is still recalled by the old guard. The following, however, is not by Gautier, but from the pen of Dr. Richard Muther, the erudite German critic: "A marriage is taking place in the sacristy of a rococo church in Madrid. The walls are covered with faded Cordova leather hangings figured in gold and dull colours, and a magnificent rococo screen separates the sacristy from the middle aisle. Venetian lustres are suspended from the ceiling, pictures of martyrs, Venetian glasses in carved oval frames hang on the wall, richly ornamented wooden benches and a library of missals and gospels in sparkling silver clasps, and shining marble tables and glistening braziers form part of the scene in which the marriage contract is being signed. The costumes are those of the time of Goya. An old beau is marrying a young and beautiful girl. With affected grace and a skipping minuet step, holding a modish three-cornered hat under his arm, he approaches the table to put his signature in the place which the escribano points out with an obsequious bow. He is arrayed in delicate lilac, while the bride is wearing a white silk dress trimmed with flowered lace and has a wreath of orange blossoms in her luxuriant black hair. As a girl friend is talking to her she examines with abstracted attention the pretty little pictures upon her fan, the finest she ever possessed. A very piquant little head she has, with her long lashes and black eyes. Then, in the background, follow the witnesses, and first of all a young lady in a swelling silk dress of the brightest rose colour. Beside her is one of the bridegroom's friends in a cabbage-green coat with long flaps and a shining belt, from which a gleaming sabre hangs. The whole picture is a marvellous assemblage of colours in which tones of Venetian glow and strength, the tender pearly gray beloved of the Japanese, and a melting neutral brown each sets off the other and gives a shimmering effect to the entire mass."

Fortuny was a gay master of character and comedy as well as of bric-a-brac. Still life he painted as no one before or after him; if Chardin is the Velasquez of vegetables, Fortuny is the Rossini of the rococo; such lace-like filigrees, fiorturi, marbles that are of stone, men and women that are alive, not of marble (like Alma-Tadema's). The artificiality of his work is principally in the choice of a subject, not in the performance. How luminous and silky are his blacks may be noted at the Metropolitan Museum in his portrait of a Spanish lady. There is nothing of the petit-ma?tre in the sensitive and adroit handling of values. The rather triste expression, the veiled look of the eyes, the morbidezza of the flesh tones, and the general sense of amplitude and grace give us a Fortuny who knew how to paint broadly. The more obvious and dashing side of him is present in the Arabian Fantaisie of the Vanderbilt Gallery. It must be remembered that he spent some time copying, at Madrid, Velasquez and Goya, and as Camille Mauclair enthusiastically declares, these copies are literal "identifications." They are highly prized by the Marquise Carcano (who owned the Vicaria), Madrazo, and the Baron Davillieu-the last named the chief critical authority on Fortuny.

In the history of the arts there are cases such as Fortuny's, of Mozart, Chopin, Raphael, and some others, whose precocity and prodigious powers of production astonished their contemporaries. Fortuny, whose full name was Mariano José Maria Bernardo Fortuny y Carbó, was born at Reus, a little town in the province of Tarragona, near Barcelona. He was very poor, and at the age of twelve an orphan. His grandfather, a carpenter, went with the lad on foot through the towns of Catalonia exhibiting a cabinet containing wax figures painted by Mariano and perhaps modelled by him. He began carving and daubing at the age of five; a regular little fingersmith, his hands were never idle. He secured by the promise of talent a pension of forty-two francs a month and went to Barcelona to study at the Academy. Winning the prize of Rome in 1857, he went there and copied old masters until 1860, when, the war between Spain and Morocco breaking out, he went to Morocco on General Prim's staff, and for five or six months his brain was saturated with the wonders of Eastern sunlight, exotic hues, beggars, gorgeous rugs, snake-charmers, Arabs afoot or circling on horseback with the velocity of birds, fakirs, all the huge glistening febrile life he was later to interpret with such charm and exactitude.

He returned to Rome. He made a second trip to Africa. He returned to Spain. Barcelona gave him a pension of a hundred and thirty-two francs a month, which amount was kept up later by the Duke de Rianzarès until 1867. He went to Paris in 1866, was taken up by the Goupils, knew Meissonier and worked occasionally with Gér?me. His rococo pictures, his Oriental work set Paris ablaze. He married the daughter of the Spanish painter Federigo Madrazo, and visited at Madrid, Granada, Seville, Rome, and, in 1874, London. He contracted a pernicious fever at Rome and died there, November 21, 1874, at the age of thirty-six. His funeral was imposing, many celebrities of the world of art participating. He was buried in the Campo Varano.

In 1866 at Rome he began etching, and in fifteen months finished a series of masterpieces. His line, surprisingly agile and sinuous, has the finesse of Goya-whom he resembled at certain points. He used aquatint with full knowledge of effects to be produced, and at times he recalls Rembrandt in the depth of his shadows. His friend the painter Henri Regnault despaired in the presence of such versatility, such speed and ease of workmanship. He wrote: "The time I spent with Fortuny is haunting me still. What a magnificent fellow he is! He paints the most marvellous things, and is the master of us all. I wish I could show you the two or three pictures he has in his hand or his etchings and water-colours. They inspired me with a real disgust of my own. Ah, Fortuny, you spoil my sleep!"

Standing aloof from the ideas and tendencies of his times and not a sweeper of the chords that stir in human nature the heroic or the pathetic, it is none the less uncritical to rank this Spaniard as a brainless technician. Everything is relative, and the scale on which Fortuny worked was as true a medium for the exhibition of his genius as a museum panorama. Let us not be misled by the worship of the elephantine. It is characteristic of his temperament that the big battle piece he was commissioned by the Barcelona Academy to paint was never finished. Not every one who goes to Rome does as the Romans do. Dowered by nature with extraordinary acuity of vision, with a romantic, passionate nature and a will of steel, Fortuny was bound to become a great painter. His manual technique bordered on the fabulous; he had the painter's hand, as his fellow-countryman Pablo de Sarasate had the born hand of the violinist. That he spent the brief years of his life in painting the subjects he did is not a problem to be posed, for, as Henry James has said, it is always dangerous to challenge an artist's selection of subject. Why did Goya conceive his Caprichos? The love of decorative beauty in Fortuny was not bedimmed by criticism. He had the lust of eye which not the treasures of Ormuz and Ind, or ivory, apes, and peacocks, could satisfy. If he loved the kaleidoscopic East, he also knew his Spain. We have seen at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts a tiny picture, the court-yard of a Spanish inn through which passes a blinding shaft of sunlight, which would make envious Se?or Sorolla. Fortuny has personal charm, a quality usually missing nowadays, for painters in their desire to be truthful are tumbling head over heels into the prosaic. Individuality is vanishing in the wastes of an over-anxious realism. If Fortuny is a daring virtuoso on one or two strings, his palette is ever enchanting. Personally he was a handsome man, with a distinguished head, his body broad and muscular and capable of enduring fatigues that would have killed most painters. Allied to this powerful physique was a seductive sensibility. This peasant-born painter was an aristocrat of art. Old Mother Nature is an implacable ironist.


We might say of the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida that he was one of those who came into the world with a ray of sunshine in their brains-altering the phrase of Villiers de l'Isle Adam. Se?or Sorolla is also one of the half-dozen (are there so many?) great living painters. He belongs to the line of Velasquez and Goya, and he seldom recalls either. Under the auspices of the Hispanic Society of America there was an exhibition of his works in 1909, some two hundred and fifty in all, hung in the museum of the society, West 156th Street, near Broadway. The liveliest interest was manifested by the public and professional people in this display. Those who saw Sorolla's art at the Paris Exposition, 1900, and at the Georges Petit Gallery, Paris, a few years ago need not be reminded of his virile quality and masterly brush-work. Some art lovers in this city are aware of his Sad Inheritance, the property of Mr. John E. Berwind, which has been hung in the Sunday-school room of the Ascension Church, Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street. It is one of the artist's few pictures in which he feels the Weltschmerz. His is a nature bubbling over with health and happiness.

He is a Valencian, was born in 1863 of poor parents, and by reason of his native genius and stubborn will power he became what he is-the painter of vibrating sunshine without equal. Let there be no mincing of comparisons in this assertion. Not Turner, not Monet painted so directly blinding shafts of sunlight as has this Spaniard. He is an impressionist, but not of the school of Monet. His manner is his own, cunningly compounded as it is of the proceeds of half a dozen artists. His trip to Rome resulted in nothing but a large eclectic canvas without individuality; what had this pagan in common with saints or sinners! He relates that in Paris Bastien-Lepage and Menzel affected him profoundly. This statement is not to be contradicted; nevertheless Sorolla is the master of those two masters in his proper province of the portrayal of outdoor life. Degas was too cruel when he called Bastien the "Bouguereau of the modern movement"; Bastien academicised Manet and other moderns. He said nothing new. As for Menzel, it would be well here to correct the notion bandied about town that he discovered impressionism before the French. He did not. He went to Paris in 1867. Meissonier at first, and later Courbet, influenced him. His Rolling Mill was painted in 1876. It is very Courbet. The Paris Exposition, 1867, picture shows the influence of Monet-who was in the Salon of 1864; and Monet was begat by Boudin, who stemmed from Jongkind; and Jongkind studied with Isabey; and they came from Turner, idolater of the Sun. Remember, too, that Corot and Courbet called Eugène Boudin "roi des ciels." Monet not only studied with him but openly admitted that he had learned everything from him, while Boudin humbly remarked that he had but entered the door forced by the Dutchman Jongkind. Doubtless Sorolla found what he was looking for in Bastien, though it would be nearer the truth to say that he studied the Barbizons and impressionists and took what he needed from them all.

He is a temperament impressionable to the sun, air, trees, children, women, men, cattle, landscapes, the ocean. Such swift, vivid notation of the fluid life about him is rare; it would be photographic were it not the personal memoranda of a selecting eye; it would be transitory impressionism were it not for a hand magical in its manipulation of pigments. Brain and brush collaborate with an instantaneity that does not perplex because the result is so convincing. We do not intend to quote that musty flower of rhetoric which was a favourite with our grandfathers. It was the fashion then to say that Nature-capitalised-took the brush from the hand of the painter, meaning some o

ld duffer who saw varnish instead of clear colour, and painted the picture for him. Sorolla is receptive; he does not attempt to impose upon nature an arbitrary pattern, but he sees nature with his own eyes, modified by the thousand subtle experiences in which he has steeped his brain. He has the tact of omission very well developed. After years of labour he has achieved a personal vision. It is so completely his that to copy it would be to perpetrate a burlesque. He employs ploys the divisional taches of Monet, spots, cross-hatchings, big sabre-like strokes à la John Sargent, indulges in smooth sinuous silhouettes, or huge splotches, refulgent patches, explosions, vibrating surfaces; surfaces that are smooth and oily surfaces, as in his waters, that are exquisitely translucent. You can't pin him down to a particular formula. His technique in other hands would be coarse, crashing, brassy, bald, and too fortissimo. It sometimes is all these discouraging things. It is too often deficient in the finer modulations. But he makes one forget this by his entrain, sincerity, and sympathy with his subject. As a composer he is less satisfactory; it is the first impression or nothing in his art. Apart from his luscious, tropical colour, he is a sober narrator of facts. Ay, but he is a big chap, this amiable little Valencian with a big heart and a hand that reaches out and grabs down clouds, skies, scoops up the sea, and sets running, wriggling, screaming a joyful band of naked boys and girls over the golden summer sands in a sort of ecstatic symphony of pantheism.

How does he secure such intensity of pitch in his painting of atmosphere, of sunshine? By a convention, just as the falsification of shadows by rendering them darker than nature made the necessary contrasts in the old formula. Brightness in clear-coloured shadows is the key-note of impressionistic open-air effects. W.C. Brownell-French Art-puts it in this way: "Take a landscape with a cloudy sky, which means diffused light in the old sense of the term, and observe the effect upon it of a sudden burst of sunlight. What is the effect where considerable portions of the scene are suddenly thrown into marked shadow, as well as others illuminated with intense light? Is the absolute value of the parts in shadow lowered or raised? Raised, of course, by reflected light. Formerly, to get the contrast between sunlight and shadow in proper scale the painter would have painted the shadows darker than they were before the sun appeared. Relatively they are darker, since their value, though heightened, is raised infinitely less than the parts in sunlight. Absolutely, their value is raised considerably. If, therefore, they are painted lighter than they were before the sun appeared they in themselves seem truer. The part of Monet's pictures that is in shadow is measurably true, far truer than it would have been if painted under the old theory of correspondence, and had been unnaturally darkened to express the relation of contrast between shadow and sunlight."

Like Turner, Monet forced the colour of his shadows, as MacColl points out, and like Monet, Sorolla forces the colour of his shadows-but what a compeller of beautiful shadows-forces the key to the very verge of the luminous abyss. Se?or Beruete, the Velasquez expert, truthfully says of Sorolla's method: "His canvases contain a great variety of blues and violets, balanced and juxtaposed with reds and yellows. These, and the skilful use of white, provide him with a colour scheme of great simplicity, originality, and beauty." There are no non-transparent shadows, and his handling of blacks reveals a sensitive feeling for values. Consider that black-gowned portrait of his wife. His underlying structural sense is never obscured by his fat, flowing brush.

It must not be supposed that because of Sorolla's enormous brio his general way of entrapping nature is brutal. He is masculine and absolutely free from the neurasthenic morbidezza of his fellow-countryman Zuloaga. (And far from attaining that painter's inches as a psychologist.) For the delineation of moods nocturnal, of poetic melancholy, of the contemplative aspect of life we must not go to Sorolla. He is not a thinker. He is the painter of bright mornings and brisk salt breezes. He is half Greek. There is Winckelmann's Heiterkeit, blitheness, in his groups of romping children, in their unashamed bare skins and na?ve attitudes. Boys on Valencian beaches evidently believe in Adamic undress. Nor do the girls seem to care. Stretched upon his stomach on the beach, a youth, straw-hatted, stares at the spume of the rollers. His companion is not so unconventionally disarrayed, and as she has evidently not eaten of the poisonous apple of wisdom she is free from embarrassment. Balzac's two infants, innocent of their sex, could not be less carefree than the Sorolla children. How tenderly, sensitively, he models the hardly nubile forms of maidens. The movement of their legs as they race the strand, their dash into the water, or their nervous pausing at the rim of the wet-here is poetry for you, the poetry of glorious days in youth-land. Curiously enough his types are for the most part more international than racial; that is, racial as are Zuloaga's Basque brigands, manolas, and gipsies.

But only this? Can't he paint anything but massive oxen wading to their buttocks in the sea; or fisher boats with swelling sails blotting out the horizon; or a girl after a dip standing, as her boyish cavalier covers her with a robe-you see the clear, pink flesh through her garb; or vistas of flower gardens with roguish maidens and courtly parks; peasants harvesting, working women sorting raisins; sailors mending nets, boys at rope-making-is all this great art? Where are the polished surfaces of the cultured studio worker; where the bric-a-brac which we inseparably connect with pseudo-Spanish art? You will not find any of them. Sorolla, with good red blood in his veins, the blood of a great, misunderstood race, paints what he sees on the top of God's earth. He is not a book but a normal nature-lover. He is in love with light, and by his treatment of relative values creates the illusion of sun-flooded landscapes. He does not cry for the "sun," as did Oswald Alving; it comes to him at the beckoning of his brush. His many limitations are but the defects of his good qualities.

Sorolla is sympathetic. He adores babies and delights in dancing. His babies are irresistible. He can sound the Mitleid motive without a suspicion of odious sentimentality. What charm there is in some of his tiny children as they lean their heads on their mothers! They fear the ocean, yet are fascinated by it. Near by is a mother and child in bed. They sleep. The right hand of the mother stretches, instinctively, toward the infant. It is the sweet, unconscious gesture of millions of mothers. On one finger of the hand there is just a hint of gold from a ring. The values of the white counterpane and the contrast of dark-brown hair on the pillow are truthfully expressed. One mother and babe, all mothers and babes, are in this picture. Turn to that old rascal in a brown cloak, who is about to taste a glass of wine. A snag gleams white in his sly, thirsty mouth. The wine tastes fine, eh! You recall Goya. As for the boys swimming, the sensations of darting and weaving through velvety waters are produced as if by wizardry. But you never think of Sorolla's line, for line, colour, idea, actuality are merged. The translucence of this sea in which the boys plash and plunge is another witness to the verisimilitude of Sorolla's vision. Boecklin's large canvas at the new Pinakothek, Munich, is often cited as a tour de force of water painting. We allude to the mermaids and mermen playing in the trough of a greenish sea. It is mere "property" water when compared to Sorolla's closely observed and clearly reproduced waves. Rhythm-that is the prime secret of his vitality.

His portraiture, when he is interested in his sitters, is excellent. Beruete is real, so Cossio, the author of the El Greco biography; so the realistic novelist Blanco Iba?ez; but the best, after those of his, Sorolla's, wife and children, is that of Frantzen, a photographer, in the act of squeezing the bulb. It is a frank characterisation. The various royalties and high-born persons whose counterfeit presentments are accomplished with such genuine effort are interesting; but the heart is missing. Cleverness there is in the portraits of Alphonse; and his wife's gorgeous costume should be the envy of our fashionable portrait manufacturers. It is under the skies that Sorolla is at ease. Monet, it must not be forgotten, had two years' military service in Morocco; Sorolla has always lived, saturated himself in the rays of a hot sun and painted beneath the hard blue dome of Spanish skies.

Sorolla is a painting temperament, and the freshening breezes and sunshine that emanate from his canvases should drive away the odours of the various chemical cook-shops which are called studios in our "world of art."

One cannot speak too much of the large-minded and cultivated spirit of Archer Milton Huntington, who is the projector and patron of the exhibitions at the Hispanic Society Museum. Sorolla y Bastida, through the invitation of Mr. Huntington, made this exhibition.


We are no longer with Sorolla and his vibrating sunshine on Valencian sands, or under the hard blue dome of San Sebastian; the two-score canvases on view in 1909 at the Hispanic Museum were painted by a man of profounder intellect, of equally sensual but more restrained temperament than Sorolla; above all, by an artist with different ideals-a realist, not an impressionist, Ignacio Zuloaga. It would not be the entire truth to say that his masterpieces were seen; several notable pictures, unhappily, were not; but the exhibition was finely representative. Zuloaga showed us the height and depth of his powers in at least one picture, and the longer you know him the more secrets he yields up.

In Paris they say of Sorolla that he paints too fast and too much; of Zuloaga that he is too lazy to paint. Half truths, these. The younger man is more deliberate in his methods. He composes more elaborately, executes at a slower gait. He resents the imputation of realism. The fire and fury of Sorolla are not his, but he selects, weighs, analyses, reconstructs-in a word, he composes and does not improvise. He is, nevertheless, a realist-a verist, as he prefers to be called. He is not cosmopolitan, and Sorolla is: the types of boys and girls racing along the beaches of watering places which Sorolla paints are cosmopolitan. Passionate vivacity and the blinding sunshine are not qualities that appeal to Zuloaga. He portrays darkest-let us rather say greenest, brownest Spain. The Basque in him is the strongest strain. He is artistically a lineal descendant of El Greco, Velasquez, Goya; and the map of his memory has been traversed by Manet. He is more racial, more truly Spanish, than any painter since Goya. He possesses the genius of place.

Havelock Ellis's book, The Soul of Spain, is an excellent corrective for the operatic Spain, and George Borrow is equally sound despite his bigotry, while Gautier is invaluable. Arsène Alexandre in writing of Zuloaga acutely remarks of the Spanish conspiracy in allowing the chance tourist only to scratch the soil "of this country too well known but not enough explored." Therefore when face to face with the pictures of Zuloaga, with romantic notions of a Spain where castles grow in the clouds and moonshine on every bush, prepare to be shocked, to be disappointed. He will show you the real Spain-the sun-soaked soil, the lean, sharp outlines of hills, the arid meadows, and the swift, dark-green rivers. He has painted cavaliers and dames of fashion, but his heart is in the common people. He knows the bourgeois and he knows the gipsy. He has set forth the pride of the vagabond and the garish fascinations of the gitana. Since Goya, you say, and then wonder whether it might not be wiser to add: Goya never had so complicated a psychology. A better craftsman than Goya, a more varied colourist, a more patient student of Velasquez, of life, though without Goya's invention, caprice, satanism, and fougue.

Zuloaga was not born poor, but with genius; and genius always spells discontent. He would not become an engineer and he would paint. His family, artists and artisans, did not favour his bent. He visited Italy, almost starved in Paris, and after he knew how to handle his tools he starved for recognition. It is only a few years since he exhibited the portrait of his uncle, Daniel Zuloaga, and his cousins. It now hangs in the Luxembourg; but Madrid would have none of him; a Spanish jury rejected him at Paris in 1900, and not possessing the means of Edouard Manet he could not hire a gallery and show the world the stuff that was in him. He did not sulk; he painted. Barcelona took him up; Paris, the world, followed suit. To-day he is rich, famous, and forty. He was born at Eibar, 1870, in the Basque province of Viscaya. He is a collector of rare taste and has housed his treasures in a gallery at his birthplace. He paints chiefly at Segovia, in an old church, though he wanders over Spain, sometimes afoot, sometimes in his motor car, often accompanied by Rodin in the latter, and wherever he finds himself he is at home and paints. A bull-fighter in the ring, as was Goya-perhaps the legend stirred him to imitation-he is a healthy athlete. His vitality, indeed, is enormous, though it does not manifest itself in so dazzling a style as Sorolla's. The demerits of literary comparisons are obvious, yet we dare to think of Sorolla and Zuloaga as we should of Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire. In one is the clear day flame of impersonality; the other is all personality, given to nocturnal moods, to diabolism and perversities, cruelties and fierce voluptuousness. Sorolla is pagan; Gothic is Zuloaga, a Goth of modern Spain. He has more variety than Sorolla, more intellect. The Baudelairian strain grows in his work; it is unmistakable. The crowds that went to see the "healthy" art of Sorolla (as if art had anything in common with pulse, temperature, and respiration) did not like, or indeed understand, many of Zuloaga's magnificent pictorial ideas.

He paints in large coups, but his broad, slashing planes are not impressionistic. He swims in the traditional Spanish current with joy. Green with him is almost an obsession-a national symbol certainly. His greens, browns, blacks, scarlets are rich, sonorous, and magnetic. He is a colourist. He also is master of a restrained palette and can sound the silver grays of Velasquez. His tonalities are massive. The essential bigness of his conceptions, his structural forms, are the properties of an eye swift, subtle, and all-embracing. It seems an image that is at once solidly rooted in mother earth and is as fluctuating as life. No painter to-day has a greater sense of character, except Degas. The Frenchman is the superior draughtsman, but he is no more vital in his interpretation of his ballet girls, washerwomen, and grisettes than is Zuloaga in his delineations of peasants, dwarfs, dogs, courtesans, scamps, zealots, pilgrims, beggars, drunkards, and working girls. What verve, what grip, what bowels of humanity has this Spaniard! A man, not a professor of academic methods. He has no school, and he is a school in himself. That the more serene, poetic aspects and readings of life have escaped him is merely to say that he is not constituted a contemplative philosopher. The sinister skein to be seen in some of his canvases does not argue the existence of a spiritual bias but is the recognition of evil in life. It is not very pleasant, nor is it reassuring, but it is part of the artist, rooted deep in his Spanish soul along with the harsh irony and a cruel spirit of mockery. He refuses to follow the ideals of other men, and he paints a spade a spade; at least the orchestration, if brutal, is not lascivious. A cold, impartial eye observes and registers the corruption of cities small and great and the infinitely worse immoralities of the open country. Sometimes Zuloaga's comments are witty, sometimes pessimistic. If he has studied Goya and Manet, he also knows Félicien Rops.

The only picture in the Zuloaga exhibition that grazes the border-land of the unconventional is Le Vieux Marcheur. It is as moral as Hogarth and as bitter as Rops. It recalls the Montmartre days of the artist when he was acquainted with Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Two women are crossing a bridge. Their actuality is impressed upon the retina in a marvellous ly definite way. They live, they move. One is gowned in dotted green, the other in black. There is a little landscape with water beyond the iron railing. A venerable minotaur is in pursuit. He wears evening clothes, an overcoat is thrown across his left arm, under his right he carries waggishly a cane. His white tie and hat of sober silk are in respectable contrast with his air of fatuousness-the Marquis of Steyne en route; the doddering hero of Mansfield in A Parisian Romance, or Baron Hulot. The alert expression of the girls, who appear to be loitering, tells us more at a glance than a chapter of Flaubert, Zola, or De Maupassant. Is it necessary to add that the handling takes your breath away because of its consummate ease and its realisation of the effects sought? Note the white of the old party's spats, echoed by the bit of stocking showing a low shoe worn by one of the girls; note the values of the blacks in the hat, coat, trousers, shoe tips of the man. The very unpleasantness of the theme is forgotten in the supreme art of its presentation.

M. Alexandre, the French critic, may argue valiantly that Zuloaga must not be compared with Goya, that their methods and themes are dissimilar. True, but those witches (Les Sorcières de San Millan) are in the key of Goya, not manner, but subject-matter-a hideous crew. At once you think of the Caprichos of Goya. The hag with the distaff, whose head is painted with a fidelity worthy of Holbein; the monkey profile of the witch crouching near the lantern, that repulsive creature in spectacles-Goya spectacles; the pattern hasn't varied since his days-these ladies and their companions, especially that anonymous one in a hood, coupled with the desperate dreariness of the background, a country dry and hard as a volcanic cinder, make a formidable ensemble. Zuloaga relates that the beldames screeched and fought in his studio when he posed them. You exclaim while looking at them: "How now, you secret black and midnight hags!" Hell hovers hard by; each witch of the unholy trio has the evil eye.

As a painter of dwarfs Zuloaga has not been surpassed by any one but Velasquez. His Gregorio, the monster with the huge head, the sickening, livid, globular eye, the comical pose-you exclaim: What a brush! The picture palpitates with reality, an ugly reality, for the tall old couple are not prepossessing. The topography of the country is minutely observed. But this painter does not wreak himself in ugliness or morbidities; he is singularly happy in catching the attitudes and gestures of the peasants as they return from the vintage; of picadors, matadors, chulos, in the ring or lounging, smoking, awaiting the signal. The large and celebrated family group of the matador Gallito-which is to remain permanently in the Hispanic Society's museum-is a superb exemplar of the synthetic and rhythmic art of the Spaniard. Each character is seized and rendered. The strong silhouettes melt into a harmonious arabesque; the tonal gamut is nervous, strong, fiery; the dull gold background is a foil for the scale of colour notes. It is a striking picture. Very striking, too, is the portrait of Breval as Carmen, though it is the least Spanish picture in the collection; Breval is pictured on the stage, the lights from below playing over her features. The problem is solved, as Besnard or Degas has solved it, successfully, but in purely personal manner. It is the picture in the Metropolitan Museum that is bound to attract attention, as it is a technical triumph; but it is not very characteristic.

We saw dark-eyed, graceful manolas on balconies-this truly Spanish motive in art, as Spanish as is the Madonna Italian-over which are thrown gorgeous shawls, smiling, flirting; with languorous eyes and provocative fans, they sit ensconced as they sat in Goya's time and centuries before Goya, the Eternal Feminine of Spain. Zuloaga is her latest interpreter. Isn't Candida delicious in green, with black head-dress of lace-isn't she bewitching? Her stockings are green. The wall is a most miraculous adumbration of green. Across the room is another agent of disquiet in Nile green, Mercedes by name. Her aquiline nose, black eyes, and the flowers she wears at the side of her head bewilder; the sky, clouds, and landscape are all very lovely. This is a singularly limpid, loose, flowing picture. It has the paint quality sometimes missing in the bold, fat massing of the Zuloaga colour chords. The Montmartre Café concert singer is a sterling specimen of Zuloaga's portraiture. He is unconventional in his poses; he will jam a figure against the right side of the frame (as in the portrait of Marthe Morineau) or stand a young lady beside an ornamental iron gate in an open park (not a remarkable portrait, but one that pleases the ladies because of the textures). The head of the old actor capitally suggests the Spanish mummer. And the painter's cousin, Esperanza! What cousins he boasts! We recall The Three Cousins, with its laughing trio and the rich colour scheme. Our recollection, too, of The Piquant Retort, and its brown and scarlet harmonies; of the Promenade After the Bull-fight, which has the classical balance and spaced charm of Velasquez; and that startling Street of Love overbalances any picture except one in this exhibition, and that is The Bull-fighter's Family. The measuring eye of Zuloaga, his tremendous vitality, his sharp, superb transference to canvas of the life he has elected to represent and interpret are at first sight dazzling. The performance is so supreme-remember, not in a niggling, technical sense-a half-dozen men beat him at mere pyrotechnics and lace fioritura-that his limitations, very marked in his case, are overlooked. You have drunk a hearty Spanish wine; oil to the throat, confusion to the senses. You do not at first miss the soul; it is not included in the categories of Se?or Zuloaga. Zuloaga, like his contemporary farther north, Anders Zorn, is a man as well as a painter; the conjunction is not too frequent. The grand manner is surely his. He has the modulatory sense, and Christian Brinton notes his sonorous acid effects. He paints beggars, dwarfs, work-girls, noblemen, bandits, dogs, horses, lovely women, gitanas, indolent Carmens; but real, not the pasteboard and foot-lights variety of Merimée and Bizet. Zuloaga's Spain is not a second-hand Italy, like that of so many Spanish painters. It is not all bric-a-brac and moonlight and chivalric tinpot helmets. It is the real Spain of to-day, the Spain that has at last awakened to the light of the twentieth century after sleeping so long, after sleeping, notwithstanding the desperate nudging it was given a century ago by the realist Goya. Now, Zuloaga is not only stepping on his country's toes, but he is recording the impressions he makes. He, too, is a realist, a realist with such magic in his brush that it would make us forgive him if he painted the odour of garlic.

Have you seen his Spanish Dancers? Not the dramatic Carmencita of Sargent, but the creature as she is, with her simian gestures, her insolence, her vulgarity, her teeth-and the shrill scarlet of the bare gum above the gleaming white, His street scenes are a transcript of the actual facts, and inextricably woven with the facts is a sense of the strange beauty of them all. His wine harvesters, venders of sacred images, or that fascinating canvas My Three Cousins-before these, also before the Promenade After the Bull-fight, you realise that by some miracle of nature the intensity of Goya and his sense of life, the charm of Velasquez and his sober dignity are recalled by the painting of a young Spanish artist who a decade ago was unknown. Nor is Zuloaga an eclectic. His force and individuality are too patent for us to entertain such a heresy. A glance at Jacques-Emile Blanche's portrait of the Spanish painter explains other things. There is the physique of a man who can work many hours a day before an easel; there are the penetrating eyes of an observer, spying eyes, slightly cruel; the head is an intellectual one, the general conformation of the face harmonious and handsome. The body is that of an athlete, but not of the bull-necked sort we see in Goya. The temperament suggested is impetuous, controlled by a strong will; it has been fined down by study and the enforced renunciations of poverty-haunted youth. Above all, there is race; race in the proud, resolute bearing, race in the large, firm, supple, and nervous hands. Indeed, the work of Zuloaga is all race. He is the most Spanish painter since Goya.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top