The third of my passions, represented upon the left arm of my autobiographical mobile, is my indisputable love affair with Spain, and with art history. If my heart lives in Paris, then my soul resides in Spain. The chromatic, melancholy chords of a flamenco guitar reach straight into my soul, transporting me to a place of almost otherworldliness tranquility, a land enriched with Moorish heritage, baked in the unyielding summer sun, bearing the scars of a bloody civil war and the ardor of a religious inquisition, wafting afresh with the scents of garlic and pigs and pimenton, sweet syrups and blossoming orange and almond trees, and giving birth to some of the greatest creative minds ever known. Spain is every bit a part of me as the country of my birth, and continues to inspire me in so many areas of my creative manifestation.
Since Spain occupies so many of my thoughts and pleasures, it is unsurprising that in pursuing that other great passion – art history – I have enjoyed a particular focus on the art of Spain, from the incredible innovation of El Greco and the dark, disturbing black paintings of Goya, to the iconic court portraits of Velázquez’s big-skirted princesses, the exquisite surreal mastery of Dali and the fragmented multi-faceted masterpieces of Picasso.
Only one image could perfectly capture these dual loves of Spain and art history: Velázquez’s Infanta, the now iconic image of the Spanish Royal Princess in the court of King Philip IV. These world-famous portraits, centrepieces of Madrid’s Prado gallery and culminating in the breathtaking masterpiece, the group portrait Las Meninas, have inspired countless generations of artists, amongst them Dali and Picasso. I painted my own version of the Velázquez greats in the form of Infanta Norm, and could not resist exploring the image again in this representation of Spain.
My new image of the Infanta is also a representation of Spain, with her dress painted to resemble both the colours of the Spanish flag and also a bull ring. I always loved Bullfighting as a teenager, and while the bloody sight of death in the afternoon was always a shocking one for someone unused to such a spectacle, there is no denying the elegance of the matador’s costumes (the traje de luces), the contrast of red against the black of the panting bull, the grand parades of the picadores, and the wonderful pomposity of the emboldening paso doble playing in the background. By way of further representation of the Corrida, my Infanta España holds the banderillas which are inserted into the taunted bull, and the pink and gold capote (cape) which is waved in front of its maddened eyes.
My Infanta España in progress
But Spain isn’t just about the bull fighting. Also represented is Spain’s all important tourism industry, here illustrated through my Infanta’s rather fetching sunglasses. We British could do with a bit of that sun right now…
Until next time – Viva España!
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