Late nineteenth-century Spain was in a state of flux, characterised by competing aesthetic ideas between tradition and the modern, religion and the secular, passionately-felt regional and national identities. Nowhere was this more strongly articulated than through Catalan modernisme (modernism), a cultural movement centred on Barcelona. We will examine these various seminal influences focussing on the early artistic endeavours of four key figures – artists Pablo Picasso, Juan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and the architect Antonio Gaudí – and their collaborations with other significant cultural figures, in our search for ‘duende’, an elusive term signifying the essence and soul of Spain.
“In her previous course, Diane helped lay bare the charismatic art of two wonderful cities. She ably demonstrated how this new art used all art forms (literature, music, dance, psychology, café culture and decorative arts) blended to depict modern life of the time lending credence to the motto “to every age its art - to every art its freedom” as declared by the Secessionists. A very enjoyable course”.
25 Apr 2024 – Picasso’s ‘Outsiders’
Provocatively anti-bourgeoisie, Picasso’s early years were spent between Barcelona, centre of anarchy, where he co-founded the periodical Arte Joven, Madrid, which put him in touch with the trinity of Great Spanish Masters, El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya, and Paris, which marked the development of his blue and rose periods.
02 May 2024 – Catalan Modernisme and the architecture of Antonio Gaudí
The disasters of the Spanish American war coupled with rapid urbanisation centred on Barcelona prompted a yearning for cultural regeneration and the rebirth of the Catalan spirit. The architecture of Antonio Gaudi exemplified the creative synthesis between the Middle Ages and the modern, old crafts, the natural world and modern technology.
09 May 2024 – Still Life and the birth of Cubism
Picasso and other Cubists revealed their affinities to earlier Spanish art and culture in many ways, not only through the trinity of the Great Spanish Masters, but also by perpetuating still life traditions derived from seventeenth and eighteen century artists Juan Sánchez Cotán and Francisco de Zurbarán, as well as the recurring motif of the guitar, a symbol of Spanish identity.
16 May 2024 – Juan Miró, the Catalan in Paris
No artist had deeper roots in Catalunya, his birthplace and homeland, than Miró. Like Picasso he announced early in his life that he wished to become a painter. We examine Miro’s early work, rooted in the rural landscape of ‘home’, his transition from Barcelona to Paris in the 1920s, and his life-embracing, visionary ‘Surrealism’.
23 May 2024 – Surrealism in painting and film
Dalí regarded Freud’s ‘The interpretation of Dreams’ as one of the greatest discoveries of his life. Many of his mature Surrealist paintings reflect Freudian ideas relating to dreams and unconscious desires, realism and the uncanny, sexuality and death. His collaboration with the filmmaker Luis Buñuel led to shocking, nightmarish sequences in Le Chien Andalou, the first Surrealist film.
30 May 2024 – The World Darkens – Artists and the Spanish Civil War
Miró and Dalí both reacted to the immediate years preceding the Spanish Civil War. Abandoning the colour, humour and gaiety of his earlier work the paintings of Miró prefigured the crescendo of horror which was to come. Largely apolitical, Dalí saw revolution as both cataclysmic and cathartic.
06 June 2024 – Picasso’s Guernica and the 1937 Paris World Fair
Picasso refused to join the Popular Front in 1936, but he did accept the commission for a mural to appear at the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the Paris World Fair, a highly politicised event. Famously he started the first studies for this iconic work within hours of the bombing. We will examine the development of this work and the role that artists played in their appeal for the Republican cause.
13 June 2024 – Franco’s Spain – Censorship and Film
Despite Franco’s prevailing laws of censorship, Spanish film-makers notably Buñuel and Victor Erice managed to find ways of making works with subtle forms of symbolism and ambiguity which were politically critical of Francoist Spain. We will look in detail at Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive, a ‘silent’ critique of Franco’s dictatorship, and consider the continuing debates relating to Franco’s Memorial (The Valley of the Fallen).