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Jose Maria Cano, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso
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Jose Maria Cano, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso


Works from this exhibition come from the Picasso Foundation in Malaga and the Fine Art Museum of Hanoi. La Tauromaquia means the art of bullfighting. This show was first conceived by Lourdes Moreno, Director of the Picasso Foundation in Malaga.


The visual aspect of bullfight has not changed for centuries. The clothing and the elements of today are pretty much the same ones since the book La Tauromaquia, by Pepe Illo was written in 1796. The conceptual point of view of this show is how three artists representing an ancient and unchanged subject that they loved with an unchanged technique which reach three completely different results because they are living within the artworld of three different centuries. It is interesting to see how these three very Spanish artists having a big personality and being very gifted technically, still interact strongly in the time they are living in.


La Tauromaquia by GOYA


On 28th October, 1816 the Diario de Madrid announced the sale of a collection of Goya’s prints devoted to bulls, La Tauromaquia— thirty-three etchings which outlined the history of bulls in Spain and recounted the fates of the most famous matadors, as well as a range of events which took place in the bullring. Goya’s drawings were mainly based in the Carta histórica sobre el origen y progreso de las corridas de toros en España (1777), written by Nicolás Fernández de Moratín and the book La Tauromaquia by Pepe Illo.


Throughout his life, Goya was fascinated by bullfighting, a festival and art which he deeply loved. At the beginning of his career he presents himself next to a young bull in one of his tapestry cartoons (Fight with a Young Bull, 1779). When he sent canvases to the Royal Academy in 1793 with themes which he was free to choose, there were eight which show the life of a fighting bull: from their rearing to the moment when they step into the bullring, their death and being dragged away by the horses. He also produced portraits of Pedro Romero and José Romero. Between 1810 and 1812 he painted The Bullfight, and perhaps immediately afterwards, Village Bullfight. Apart from these individual works, the painter from Fuendetodos devoted two series of etchings to the world of bullfighting one is the series which he produced in Bordeaux at the age of 80 and the other one is La Tauromaquia that can be seen in this room and was produced during most of his professional life.


La Tauromaquia by PICASSO


In summer 1957, the Barcelona-based publishing house Gustavo Gili commissioned Picasso an art book. Picasso first thought of doing an anthology of poems by Góngora but later changed his mind and decided to do La Tauromaquia by Pepe Illo. This book, from the end of the eighteen century, is the same one that inspired La Tauromaquia by Goya that can be seen in the previous room. In summer 1957, Picasso etched the twenty-six plates for the book within the space of a few weeks. He chose a technique which was unusual for him, sugar aquatint, which allowed him to produce the etchings by drawing directly on the plate with a brush. The paper manufacturing process came next, which Gili commissioned to Guarro and which carried a watermark, a bull’s head, designed by Picasso himself. The printing of the plates was performed in the Lacourière workshops in Paris under the artist’s supervision.


Picasso was a bullfight lover himself. There is a photograph of Picasso and his father at a bullfight in Malaga when he was about 5 years old and he was so close to the bullfight and the relation between man and bull that he painted himself as a bull in the series El Minotauro. Although after the Civil War, he never went back to Spain, he used to go to the bullfights in the South of France until the end of his life. When Picasso made these etchings he had very much in mind Goya’s Tauromaquia to the point that he repeated most of the titles. Still Goya’s work was mainly a testimonial while for Picasso it was about his own drawing style.


La Tauromaquia by CANO


Cano presents the world of bullfighting as the stage on which the human universe is melodramatised, as a kind of concave mirror in which society and its ways of understanding is reflected in a concentrated form, but synthesized both organic and passionate. For him the world of bullfighting is a de-idealised version of the world.



Writing about him in the Architectural Digest, Cristina Gimenez says: “At a time when almost no artists draw, Cano converts this discipline into the central tenet of his work: black lines on a white background: With ink on paper or encaustic on canvas (an ancient technique using wax as a pigment binder) his production is impeccable and the effects are spectacular.”


According to Cano, art does not provide answers, nor does it ask questions, but generates the unease which awakens them in the observer. He therefore finds the world of bullfighting disturbing, as it creates absurdities such as where a person who consumes a beefsteak sacrificed before it has endured six months of a miserable life in a stable is against the killing of five-year-old bulls, which have led an enviable existence.


In a recent interview Cano says, “Since I was very small I always knew how to ‘torear al salón’. In other words, I understood the principles of what should be done in front of a bull, having practiced with my father. Even then I was attracted by the contrasts within the bullfighting ceremony. The bullfighter as a feminine fact and the bull as a masculine fact. Intelligence and instinct. Manipulation against natural condition. Vertical and horizontal. The colours of the sacred pageant set against bull black. And of course, life versus death. Two antithetical but complementary forces which converge at the same point once and again without clashing.”