Flamenco in painting

 In Flamenco in Seville

Flamenco is not only an art form that is sung and danced, but it is also present in many other cultural facets. With barely two centuries of life, it is relatively easy to follow the path and evolution that it has had as an artistic expression, both in singing, dancing, playing and, in this case, in painting.

From its beginnings in the so-called “flamenco axis” (which links the Ports, Cadiz, Lebrija, Utrera and the Triana district of Seville), through the singing cafés of the 19th century and up to the current flamenco tablaos, flamenco has been evolving with society, even its lyrics have been adapted to each moment in history.

Flamenco in painting: from costumbrismo to impressionismo

The presence of flamenco in painting began to be recognized in the works belonging to what is known as costumbrismo, an artistic movement that was at its peak in Spain in the 19th century and whose purpose is to express the uses and customs of a society.

It is in this “costumbrismo” when we begin to see reflected the first cantes that were improvised in cortijos or private houses and in which later appeared the singing cafés. This trend is still in force in the 20th century, as can be seen in impressionist paintings by Sorolla and Zuloaga.

«Baile en el café Novedades de Sevilla» by Joaquín Sorolla.

However, it was not only Spanish painters who looked to flamenco for inspiration. Gustave Doré, a well-known illustrator and painter, was chosen to add colour to Baron Charles Davillier’s travel book “Viaje por España” (Travel for Spain).

Print by Gustave Doré.

In these drawings we can see popular scenes of singing and dancing close to the costumbrismo.

In addition to illustrating this well-known story, both travelled around the country doing reports for the travel magazine “Le tour du Monde”, capturing everyday Spanish scenes in which even the birth of some styles, such as the “Malagueñas”, was reflected.

Another impressionist painter who was fascinated by flamenco as an artistic expression was Edouard Manet, a fact that was reflected in works such as “The Spanish Singer”.

However, to talk about flamenco in painting is to talk about Julio Romero de Torres. This painter from Cordoba included in his paintings some characteristic elements of this genuine art, such as the guitar, the Cordovan hat or the cape. His symbolism is reflected in the canvases, capturing women with a fixed gaze and typically flamenco poses.

Portrait of Pastora Imperio, by Julio Romero de Torres.
Portrait of a woman with all the elements: guitar, cape and Cordovan hat, by Julio Romero de Torres.

At this time, the 19th and early 20th centuries, flamenco began to establish itself as an artistic genre with its own authority, although the folklore, movement and joy reflected in the paintings gave way to a more sober and austere trend that sought to express the true feeling of flamenco.

We enter the post-war period that has been described as the “amateur painters”. They seek to represent pain in gestures, the lament of the purest cante, the cante jondo. Fausto Oliveras, Moreno Galván and Antonio Povedano stand out, whose aesthetics in the search for that pure feeling makes many people qualify these works as “ugly”.

This movement gave way to more avant-garde artists during the 20th century, such as Picasso and Dalí, who not only reflected flamenco in their paintings, but also incorporated it into their circle of friends. Picasso, a great passionate of bullfighting, usually attended meetings among which were bullfighters, flamenco singers and dancers.

Flamenco is portrayed in many ways, going beyond singing, dancing and playing, giving way to an artistic genre with its own identity that evolves as society does but without losing the identity that makes it unique.

Enjoy flamenco: see a live show in Seville

In the Tablao Cuna del Flamenco we recover that primitive essence, when flamenco started to open to the public in the singing cafés, during the 19th century. For an hour, our artists leave all their feelings on stage, taking a tour of the most traditional flamenco palos.

Although we have certainly left many painters behind, the truth is that the best way to feel flamenco, the purest quejío (lament), is to see a live flamenco show. Book your ticket online. We are waiting for you!

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