instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

From El Greco to Goya: Painting in Spain 1561-1828

Excerpt from the Introduction:

Painting in Spain or Spanish Painting?

Given the complexity of a national history that has been considered here in only the most general terms, we may well ask, when did "Spain" begin and what does "Spanish" mean?... The choice of title for this book reflects a belief that, like many other nationalist frames in art history, "Spanish painting" is an anachronism that only imposes a restrictive homogeneity upon the subject....


Two portraits of monarchs who ruled Spain illustrate the complexity of the issue. The first depicts the second Habsburg king, Philip II: based on the age of the sitter and costume, it can be dated to around 1575. It exhibits traits that can readily be qualified as "Spanish": the somber palette, the stern expression, the rosary held in the right hand seem to illustrate the ascetic religiosity that art historians continue to identify as essential the the Spanish character. Yet the portrait has most recently been attributed to an Italian and -- even more anomalous--a woman, Sofonisba Anguissola. A very different extreme is seen in the portrait , painting in 1743 by Louis-Michel van Loo, of the family of Spain's first Bourbon king, Philip V. Again, it is the work of a "foreigner" painting for a Spanish Bourbon court that willfully rejected the austere formulas of Habsburg portraiture, replacing them instead with a colorism and bombast rarely associated with the concept of Spanish painting....


No simple, unified notion of Spanish painting can encompass both of these works. Moreover, such nationalist notions were irrelevant to sitters and artists alike....