Thyssen Museum brings ‘ignored’ Spanish art from the interwar period to life

Dalí’s “Portrait of Anna Maria” is one of the masterpieces in the exhibition. / FRANCISCO HINOJOSA

‘Real(ismos)’ highlights the modernity of the new figuration through lesser-known works by Miró, Dalí, Maruja Mallo, Benjamín Palencia, Ponce de León and others

The paradox of early 20th century Spanish art is that while major artists like Picasso, Dalí and Miró were considered indisputable masters of the avant-garde, they were generally devalued, relegated to major exhibitions at the time and less studied than other contemporary European movements.

The new seasonal exhibition at the Carmen Thyssen Museum, entitled “Real(ismos)”, aims to show through the artists themselves and their works the coexistence of the avant-garde with the figuration that has once again prevailed in art. between the wars and which, in the case of Spain, ended prematurely and brutally with the civil war. It contains 86 works, some with a new realism that is far from traditional, by Maruja Mallo, Benjamín Palencia, Pablo Gargallo, Ponce de León, María Blanchard, Jorge Oramas and Julio González, among others.

“The new realists have been overshadowed and ignored in different exhibitions, so we want to highlight the relevance of Spanish art from the moment it was relegated to the background and the need to tell a story that until now has not was only partially told” declared Bárbara García y Alberto Gil, curators of the exhibition, during the opening. Thus, contrary to the prevailing thesis that Spanish art of the 1920s and 1930s was less interesting and of lower quality, the exhibition graphically shows that although many artists are not known today, their works have become part of integral part of European modernity after having been absent for so long. long.

This original art which, like the rest of the continent, returned to figuration and order after the catastrophes of the Great War but was contaminated by the avant-garde and far from being academic, is what can be seen in ‘Real(ismos)’. Back to landscapes, portraits and still lifes, the three main parts of this exhibition, showing “characters captured in an instant after the cataclysms of the avant-garde and the world war”, declared Bárbara García. The collection also includes prints and, above all, photos, which also had a great influence on this new realism.

“It was such a culturally rich period that we could have included cinema and literature,” explained Alberto Gil, pointing to the portrait of writer Rosa Chacel, pale skin and red shoes, by her husband Timoteo Pérez Rubio . In this second room, called ‘Sujetos’, attention is drawn to another woman with a deep gaze, a fixed gesture and large hands, ‘Portrait of Anna María’, painted when Salvador Dalí was still looking for his own style. Likewise, in the ‘Objetos’ room we find the still lifes of Benjamín Palencia, Francisco Bores and Julio González, more avant-garde than Dalí at that time, although the most innovative artist was a woman, Maruja Mallo, one of the few women in Spanish art. His ‘Desnudo surrealista’ and ‘Estampa’ can be seen here, along with works by Ángeles Ortiz and María Blanchard.

The first room, ‘Espacios’, introduces the visitor to the exhibition through landscapes which show this recognizable figuration but which move away from academic realism. Among the pieces that attract attention, a rural Mediterranean decor in which the colors are more pronounced than the shapes, ‘Paisaje de Mont-roig’ (1916), in which we discover a different Joan Miró, and prior to abstraction that defined his recognizable work. This country motif is also present in José María Ucelay and Horacio Ferrer, but already expresses a major shift towards the urban and the industrial, with ‘La fábrica bajo la niebla’ by Daniel Vázquez Díaz and ‘Casa en construcción’ by Ángel López-Obrero, with Gabriel Photo from Casas “Andamios in the Sagrada Familia” (1930).

Unusual and important

This exhibition, sponsored by Fundación La Caixa and Soho Boutique Hotels, is so unusual that it sets the Carmen Thyssen Museum on a level of its own. It is “a contribution to the history of Spanish art which is our interest and our concern”, declared the artistic director, Lourdes Moreno. The exhibition had been planned before the 2020 lockdown, and despite the delay and difficulties caused by the pandemic, it features works from more than 50 different collectors and galleries. These include the Reina Sofía Museum, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the Nacional de Catuña, the IVAM, the Gala Salvador Dali Foundation and the Museum of Malaga.

“We also want to point out that even though many people have said that we can no longer organize exhibitions of this type, we are there, that is exactly what we are doing,” said Alberto Gil.

About Oscar L. Smith

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