Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

MUSEO NACIONAL CENTRO DE ARTE REINA SOFIA MNCARS | Santa Isabel 52
28012 Madrid

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Flamenco, understood as modern popular culture, and the artistic avant-garde movements emerge at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1865, Édouard Manet traveled to Spain to see up-close the works of his Spanish teachers, and cantaor Silverio Franconetti returned to Seville to lay down the bases for what would soon become flamenco song. During these years, the railroad line joining Andalusia to Madrid and Paris is completed, and movements announcing the First Republic gain territory. The bailaores are self-taught; their place of employment is the fiesta or live music cafés.

Alround 1900. Dark Spain. The exhibition opens with a portrait of the dancer Carmencita, who performed in New York at the end of the nineteenth century. Portrayed by William Merrit Chase, she was also the first woman filmed in cinematic history by Thomas Alva Edison. Before Chase, Édouard Manet had not only introduced Spanish subject matters into his paintings, but likewise, thanks to them, a new way of painting that followed Velázquez became a prelude to impressionism. The Bécquers were the first to take up the subject of Spanish dance, interested in the realism of the anthropological representation, but also in its popular character, which turned it into an ideal means for social and political critique. The self-portrait of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer smoking and peering at women through the smoke of his cigarette, gives an idea of how dance opens the doors to “another world,” one of dreaming and leisure. Caricatures by SEM (the pseudonym for a group that included the Bécquer brothers) nevertheless demonstrate how one can speak of reality from this “other” world.

The publication of España negra (Dark Spain), a travel book by E. Verhaeren and Darío de Regoyos, portrayed the harsh, pessimistic image of Spain that would persist throughout the turn of the century. Works by Regoyos, Solana and Nonell contributed to depicting this image, which would also draw other painters traditionally considered luminists, like Anglada Camarasa and Sorolla. Pastora Imperio would be the first dancer from this crude image of Spain, whose stage performances could be followed in popular fiestas or city cafés. The worlds of gypsies, the “other” Spaniards par excellence, formed part of this dark imagery.

The 1910s. Cubism and Russian Ballet. Coinciding with the diffusion of cubism and with the arrival of artists fleeing war to the Iberian Peninsula, such as Gleizes, Picabia, and the Delaunays, Spanish dance emerges as a model for abstract and decorative rhythm. Numerous artists used the dancer’s image to disarrange the figure, traveling from figuration to stylization or abstraction: among them, Picasso, Severini and Lipchitz. The same follows for the guitar, an element in numerous compositions, which is not foreign for its identification to the feminine body. Culturally Spanish subject matters, or castizo themes, were turned into a successful genre, between the advertising and tourist gaze, studies on folklore and reflections on identity. They were also years of fiestas and excesses, and flamenco made its appearance in many of these. Costumes and cross-dressing often acquire a Spanish character.

During World War I, the Russian ballet also came to Spain, and with them, Picasso and Goncharova as designers. Some dancers would identify with them, understanding that Russian as well as Spanish dance could be found within an intermediary place between popular and classical dance, between East and West. The mise-en-scene of the Russian ballet would encourage some Spaniards working in Paris, like La Argentina and Vicente Escudero, to create companies and organize large-scale performances in collaboration with artists like Néstor and Sáenz de Tejada, and musicians Falla and Albéniz, which were conceived for large international theaters, not only for local houses or live music cafés.

The Republic. Eternal Spain and the españolada.The key figures of this section are Picabia, Miró and Man Ray, who bring with them a certain radicalism, one that coincides with refining stereotypes in flamenco and the avant-garde art scene. Flamenco is clearly aware of its identity, torn between purist aesthetics and commercial stereotypes. Artists and writers from Generation 27 explore modern leisure in the verbena street festivals, but they also study eternalSpain with a critical gaze. Both matters appear in images by Dalí, Lorca and Giménez Caballero. The cinematic eye and the popular stereotype upheld by advertising images find their way into painting: images by Romero de Torres and Martín Durban serve as evidence of this. Spanish cinema, concerned with offering matters of local interest to its viewing public, takes up “Spanishness,” albeit superficially—bulls, mantilla veils, Andalusian charm and dishonorable women—and furthermore relates it to rural, suburban life, placing it in counterpoint to a world of gentlemen and the miserably poor. The figure of dancer Carmen Amaya, in trousers and with her furious zapateado footwork, sums up this image, albeit paradoxically new, of the eternal Spain as one that is both dramatic and strong willed.

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The Spanish Night
Flamenco, Avant-Garde and Popular Culture (1864-1939)
Kuratoren: Patricia Molins, Pedro G. Romero

Künstler: u.a Gregorio Prieto, Julio Romero de Torres, Pablo Picasso