Diverse and Innovative
Spanish art has a history of over five hundred years. Spanish art is renowned for being diverse and innovative. El Greco, Greek by birth and Italian by training, settled in Toledo, and was the most vital visual representative of Spanish religious fervor of the sixteenth century. The Espolio and the Burial of the Count de Orgaz are his recognized masterpieces. His work reflected the Mannerist tendencies of elongating the human figure, dramatizing rather than describing events, and using symbolism and visual allegories to convey complex meanings.
The Baroque period of the seventeenth century marked the appearance of Francisco de Zurbaran and Diego Velazquez. Zurbaran´s important works include The Apostle St. Andrew, Still Life with Oranges, Lemons and Rose, Rest on the Flight to Egypt and St. Francis. Zurbaran´s art is baroque because of its intense spirituality. Diego Velazquez was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. Some of his important works are The Waterseller of Seville, Pope Innocent X, Juan de Pareja and The Maids of Honor. Velazquez´s compositions display the baroque qualities of movement, energy with tension, strong contrasts of light and shadow, and realism, which means that the figures in his paintings are not types but individuals with their own personalities.
Francisco Goya was also an artist who served in the courts of the Spanish monarchs. He drew portraits of the figures at the court and his paintings reflected contemporary historical upheavals. The characteristics of his works are quick, loose, thick brushstrokes, the use of the color black, rough and with out detailed backgrounds along with a talent for capturing movement. He was therefore given the responsibility of making portraits of the royal family members.
20th Century and Modern Art
The twentieth century introduced two very original artists to the Spanish art scene, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Pablo Picasso pioneered the modern art movement called cubism, invented ‘collage´ as an artistic technique and developed assemblage, or constructions of various materials in sculpture. His most noteworthy characteristic was the way in which he continuously modified and even significantly changed his painting style. In 1937 the artist created his landmark painting ‘Guernica´, a protest against the barbaric air raid against a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica is a huge mural on canvas in black, white and grey; the imagery of the gored horse, the fallen soldier, and screaming mothers with dead babies was employed to condemn the useless destruction of life.
Salvador Dali was a painter and printmaker, well-known for his explorations of subconscious imagery. The development of his artistic style was influenced by Sigmund Freud´s writings on the erotic significance of the subconscious, and his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, who sought to establish the “greater reality” of man´s subconscious over his reason.
Origins in Barcelona
Spanish cinema production started in Barcelona in the late nineteenth century. The first movie shot was Eduardo Jimeno’s People Coming out of the Noontime Mass at the Cathedral of the Virgin of Pilar in Zaragoza (1897), while the first actual Spanish film was Café Brawl (1897), written, directed, produced and performed by the pioneering Fructuoso Gelabert. The most memorable film from that period was Segundo de Chomon´s spectacular fantasy, The Electric Hotel (1905). Spanish films of that time reflected contemporary Spanish life.
In the 1920s, Spanish movie-making moved to Madrid, and Spanish literature became a source of material for moviemakers. The Spanish film industry was producing about 60 pictures a year at this point. It was during this time that Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s surrealist short The Andalusian Dog (1928) was screened in Paris, catapulting Bunuel into fame. Francisco Elias’ The Mystery of the Puerta de Sol (1929) was the first sound picture produced in Spain. But Spanish cinema was unable to keep pace with the technological innovations sweeping across America and the rest of Europe, and many film professionals migrated to Hollywood and Paris.
Golden Age of Spanish Cinema
The period just prior to the Civil War was the golden age of Spanish cinema. Spanish cinema had a strong domestic following, and film stars such as Miguel Ligero, Manuel Luna, Rosita Diaz Gimeno and Antonita Colome became famous throughout Spain. Some of the hits of the time were Rey’s Mama’s Suitor and Benito Perojo’s On the Road to Cairo. The urban milieu still provided the content. After the Civil War, and Franco´s ascent to power, there was little room for a liberated, creative cinema. Films were made to exalt the values of Franco´s regime.
Visionaries and Their Works
Juan de Orduna’s Follow the Legion and Antonio Roman’s Martyrs of the Philippines glorified the honor of fighting and dying for the cause. Idealization of the past was theme which spawned opulent costume dramas like de Orduna’s Love Crazy and Agustina of Aragon. Religious-themed films, like The Saintly Queen and Loyola, the Soldier Saint, were also standard fare. In the 1950s, a dissident voice crept in, and was noticeable in films like the Bardem-Berlanga collaboration That Happy Pair, Marco Ferreri and Rafael Azcona´s–El Pisito and El Cochecito, and Carlos Saura’s The Delinquents. Saura has one of the most prestigious careers in Spanish cinema, a career that continues today with pictures like Tango.
With Franco’s death came true liberalization, and the birth of geniuses like Pedro Almodovar, J.J. Bigas Luna (Jamon, Jamon), Vicente Aranda (Mad Love) and Fernando Trueba (Calle 54). With them came a generation of new Spanish stars including Victoria Abril, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. Directors such as Alejandro Amenabar, Julio Medem and Alex de la Iglesia have chosen to embrace many of the strengths of commercial narrative moviemaking, while maintaining a refreshing degree of individuality and personal authorship.
Spanish music is as diverse as the geography of the country. The form of Spanish music that tops the popularity chart is definitely the flamenco. A vigorous and rhythmic style of music and dance, it originated during the eighteenth century in the cities of Cadiz, Jerez, and Seville in the Andalusian region of Southern Spain.
Flamenco is a combination of three forms – the cante or song, the baile or dance, and the guitarra or guitar. (Originally, it only consisted of the song and the hand-clapping or knuckle-rapping; the guitar was incorporated only in the nineteenth century.) This art form has its roots in the songs of the gypsies of Andalusia; its gestures and movements were developed and perfected in the numerous music/singing cafes of the nineteenth century.
Galicia and Asturias in northwest Spain have their own autonomous musical tradition. The people inhabiting these regions are of Celtic origin, and Spanish music from this region is similar to the music of Wales and Ireland. The gaita, which is similar to the bagpipe, is the most commonly used musical instrument, and it is usually accompanied by the tamboril, which is a kind of drum. Gaita and tamboril bands play all kinds of music, from the lively to the solemn. The sprightly muineiro, with a rhythm akin to that of jigs, is the most popular form of song. But the oldest and primarily venerated form is the alalas, a chant separated either by bagpipe music or vocals.
Basque music, like Basque language, presents a wholly unique trend in Spanish culture. The Basque contribution to Spanish music consists of the development of three original instruments, namely the txistu, comprising a pipe and a drum, the alboka, which is a combination of a pipe and a horn, and the dultzaina, which is a wind instrument. However, the most commonly used instruments today are the button accordion and the tambourine. The music that is created is continuous, rapid, driving and melodious, and accompanies the Basque dance form know as the trikitixa. Basque music is generally collective in nature.
In the city of Salamanca, in the Castille-Leon region of Spain, we are confronted with yet another tradition of Spanish music. It is la tuna, and its origins can be traced to the medieval era, when the university’s poor students earned money by singing in the streets. Today, the students still dress in the traditional black capes and leggings, and sing and play mandolins and guitars, serenading tourists, or earning money by performing at weddings. The remarkable fact about Spanish music is that, through a continuous process of improvisation, traditions which began more than eight or nine hundred years ago are still in vogue, and continue to remain a part of mainstream culture.