Category: Basque Art (page 1 of 5)

International Alert of Architectonic Heritage in Danger in Donostia

By Eneko Tuduri

This past 9th of April, the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS, a branch of the UNESCO) launched the second international alert of architectonic heritage in danger for the Bellas Artes Palace in Donostia/San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa (Basque Country).

The Palacio Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Palace), built in 1914 by the donostiarra architect Ramon Cortázar Urruzola (1867-1945), is “one of the earliest extant examples of a purpose-built movie palace left in the Basque Country and in all of Spain”[1]. Furthermore, the Bellas is a unique innovative building built before the First World War; it follows the French typology of a Palace du Cinéma (movie palace), an eclectic type of monumental buildings, ranging between the Art Noveau and Art Decó styles.

In the first years of cinema films were shown in cafes, regular theaters and street pavilions[2]. It is only after 1907 that cinema theaters were built specifically for their purpose, such as the Gaumont-Palace cinema in Paris[3]. The Bellas Artes is clearly inspired by this cinema theater, but also receives influences from the Viennese Secession architectural style, ancient Egyptian temples and eastern pagodas[4]. Structurally, it is one of the first buildings in Spain using reinforced concrete cast in place, making it a very resistant structure and a more significant building.

The architect, Ramon Cortázar, and his father Antonio Cortazar are part of the most important architect saga in Gipuzkoa´s capital.  Antonio was the designer of the city center, the so-called Ensanche Cortázar. Ramon crowned his father’s decades long work with this building, marking the end of the expansion area of the Donostia 100 years after its destruction by Anglo-Portuguese troops in 1813.

In 2015, the Bellas Artes went from the highest protection category to the destruction of the dome, the most important architectural feature of the building.

On the same day of its 100th anniversary, good news arrived to the defenders of the palace that was already threatened[5]; the building got the highest rate of protection from the Basque Government after a request by ANCORA, the citizen platform formed to defend the monument[6]. However, shortly after this, SADE, the company that owns the building, presented an appeal against this order. In a turn of the events, the government decided to dismiss the protection order. Just after the removal of this protection, SADE informed the city council of the appearance of a crack in the dome and proposed to demolish it, alleging danger of collapse.

Between October 20 and 30 of 2015, SADE demolished the dome of the Bellas Artes building and covered the building with a protective mesh – as a shroud -” to give a sense of decrepitude”[7]. Not only was the dome lost but by this time decorative elements, such as the zinc masks of fantastical creatures in the corners of the dome, were already lost. An order to rebuild the dome was given by the city council to SADE, but without any date or condition.

Today the actual condition of the building is the same as at the end of 2015, without a dome and with the clear intention by the owner to let it deteriorate, declare it a ruin, and demolish it. For these reasons, ICOMOS launched the second international alert. As the dossier about the building declares: “The recovery of its former glory would be desirable” and the ” The Bellas Artes can be and should be protected and fully restored”[8].

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The Bellas Artes short after the inauguration

 

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The Monument Today

 

[1] Dossier of international alert of the ICOMOS about the building. March 30, 2019. p. 2.

[2] Ibidem. p. 2.

[3] Nowadays demolished. Ibidem. p. 5.

[4] Ibidem. p. 14.

[5] September 12, 2014. By May 2015 a first international alert was launch by the ICOMOS warning the local authorities.

[6] This group has defended this monument, but also many other historical buildings in Donostia and the surroundings. Formed by architects and art historians, Ancora received the medal of the city this year because of the task of protecting and disseminating the architectonical heritage of the city. It is not the only citizen group in San Sebastian created in the last years to protect its heritage, showing the high level of destruction of heritage perpetrated in the last decades.

[7] Ibidem. p 4.

[8] Ibidem. p. 15.

CBS Graduate Student Eneko Tuduri Discusses Medieval Art at Lecture Series

 

Eneko presented his talk titled International and Political Influences in the Kingdom of Navarre 1194-1425 through Art.

Since its formation, the kingdom of Pamplona (824) has had a lot of  international influences. By the end of the 12th century, this kingdom turned into the kingdom of Navarre after conquering Tudela (the most important Muslim city in the north after Saragossa). It was then when real “international” connections started. They were especially remarkable with the French territories and with the English crown.

The Church of San Zoilo de Caseda, Navarre, 14th century.

It was through the Saint James way that the Romanesque art entered the north of the Iberian Peninsula. European styles also spread from French settlements in the kingdom of Navarre, or through the dynastic marriages with Basque and English royal families.

A good example of how cultural influences were coming down the Saint James Way was the “Viking” or Northern European symbol on the facade of the church of Santa Maria de Sangüesa. The story of Sigfrid was sculpted in stone, with two scenes depicting how the hero gets the magic sword from the dwarf smith, and how the hero kills the dragon. This representation is typical of northern European countries, as we can see in the carvings from Hylestad stavekirkein Norway.

The dynastic marriages allowed that the high-quality art of Europe would reach Navarre to all the different fields. The Lemoges enamel art or the “champlevé” was already in Navarre for the marriage between Richard the Lionheart and the princess Berengela of Navarre. The magnified altar piece of the monastery of San Miguel de Aralar (end of the 12th century) is one of the most impressing examples of Lemoges enamel art. According to some experts, the altarpiece was the present for this weeding.

Finally, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the new French artistic style gothic art spread in Navarre thanks in part to the French origin of the kings of Navarre. One of the best examples is the Barbazana chapel in the Cathedral of Iruña-Pamplona, the burial place of the bishop Arnauld of Barbazan in power from 1318 to 1355. The chapel is covered with a star shaped-vault, which has an origin in England, most specifically in the Cathedral of Southwell, according to some experts. This is something not very surprising because in the construction site of the cloister, just where this chapel is located, we can find the trace of several European master builders as Guillermo Inglés (William the English).

The Pyrenaic kingdom will stay for the next century as an important European kingdom, in some cases with art at the same level of the best European capitals.

 

The Greenman of San Juan Bautista de Eristain, Navarre, locally known in Basque as Basajaun (“the lord of the forest”).

March 21, 1941: Birth of composer Sara Soto

Most of you reading this will be aware of the importance of music in Basque culture and we could quite easily dedicate an entire blog to Basque music alone. Today’s Flashback Friday story concerns an interesting figure in the world of Basque music that is sometimes overlooked in studies of the topic. Sara Soto Gabiola was born in Gorliz, Bizkaia, on March 21, 1941, although her family moved to Irun, Gipuzkoa, when she was very young.

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

She suffered from a muscular illness as a child, which limited her ability to move around easily, and she found an escape from the physical limitation imposed on her by developing a keen appreciation for the arts: she drew and painted and was an avid reader. But in was in music that she found her true métier. Although she did undertakle some formal studies of harmony, she was largeñy self-taught.

Her first compositions, influenced strongly by the Basque artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu and in particular Lourdes Iriondo and Xabier Lete (with whom she established a lasting friendship), she started composing songs for accompaniment by the guitar. Lete wrote the lyrics for several of her compositions, including the popular “Kanta Kanta,” recorded by Maria Ostiz in the late 1960s, and Iriondo recorded her song “Maitasun honek zugan dirudi” in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s the renowned sculptor, artist, and all-round Basque renaissance figure Nestor Basterretxea commissioned her to compose an accompanying soundtrack for what would become arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series), today housed in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.  The result was the choral work “Karraxis,” based on verses by Basterretxea, which premiered in 1979 in Donostia-San Sebastián with the Ametsa Choir from Irun and some members of the Orfeón Donostiarra choir as well. In the mid-1980s she worked with Basterretxea again to create the “Cripta,” a piece for the organ inspired by the artist’s murals for the crypt in the Sanctuary of Arantzazu.  Although these were her best known works, she composed many more choral and organ pieces and left a profound mark on Basque music. She died in Irun in June 1999.

Spring 2019 CBS Lecture Series

This semester we a have an exciting line-up of lectures starting on March 7th! The Lecture Series will feature CBS professors Sandra Ott and Mariann Vázci, Jon Bilbao Basque Library Intern Mónica Buxeda, our two new graduate students Eneko Tuduri and Nerea Eizagirre, Anthropology professor Jenanne Ferguson, and Spanish professor Tania Leal.

As usual, lectures are on Thursdays from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm in MIKC 305N. Admission is free, so stop by and learn about the amazing research developed by the faculty and students at UNR!

Alan Griffin and the Alboka

Alan Griffin, an Irish musician, originally playing the flute and the tin whistle in traditional Irish fashion, did not think much of the alboka, the peculiar Basque, single-reed, woodwind instrument, when he first encountered it.  Griffin said that it seemed like “a kind of circus trick”.  Yet, three decades later, he became an influential part of the revitalization of the alboka and traditional Basque music.

Griffin started out playing at informal social gathering for Basque social dinners, and eventually met Txomin Artola while he was playing at a cider house with the music group Ganbara, which included the accordionist Joxan Goikoetxea and they began playing together in the group Folk Lore Sorta, which eventually evolved into the group Alboka along with Josean Martín Zarko.

Joxan Goikoetxea & Alan Griffin. Photo by: Ander Gillenea, uploaded by Aztarna via Wikimedia Commons

Joxan Goikoetxea & Alan Griffin. Photo by: Ander Gillenea, uploaded by Aztarna via Wikimedia Commons

There is so much more to the story of how Griffin, along with his alboka and the group of Alboka helped the revitalization of traditional Basque music, to learn more about the story and Griffin’s thoughts on his musical career, click the following link: https://bit.ly/2pAqCe0.

Diaspora Day

The very first Diaspora Day was held last Saturday, September 8th, a date designated by the Basque government because the date coincides with the first global circumnavigation in 1522 by Juan Sebastian Elkano and his crew.

People posing by Basque monument in Reno, Nevada  People gathering around

The day focuses on the Basque diaspora and different Basque organizations and communities would each find a way to celebrate. The idea is to bring more attention and celebrate the Basque diaspora. The Reno diaspora decided to do a walk from the Basque Sheepherder Monument to the Sheepherder Exhibit. To learn more about Diaspora Day and how it came into being, check out the blog post by Kate Camino on the new holiday: https://bit.ly/2CH80Tn.

Photo of Basque monument by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Photos by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Interview with Eneko Tuduri on Medieval Painting in Navarre

Interview by Xabier Irujo

How did you start studying Navarrese Medieval paintings?

I was at a Aranzadi Society of Science workshop in 2014 in the village of Gallipienzo (Navarre) when I learned about the paintings for the first time. The workshop was called Erdi Aroko mugak Nafarroan (Middle Ages borders in Navarre), and it focused on archeology and history for university students. Then, I was studying art history at the university of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), and I already had several courses about Medieval art and iconography.

The church of San Salvador, where part of the paintings are, was being restored at that time with scaffoldings. Thanks to the permission of the mayor, Carmele Iriguibel, I could visit the paintings with some other students, and took good detail photos of them.

Later, back at the university, I started studying these paintings (lineal gothic style paintings painted around 1360-1380), because they were not studied deep enough, and finally I turned the project into the TFG (final degree paper), under the guidance of Soledad de Silva y Verastegui, Professor of Medieval Iconography.

Why is it relevant to study these paintings, and what is their artistic significance?

Well, in the case of San Salvador de Gallipienzo paintings, there is a double problem. First, part of the paintings, the ones in better condition, were striped off the walls in 1949 with special techniques, and moved to the Museo de Navarra in Pamplona. The rest of the paintings, which were in worse condition, were “abandoned” in the church. These paintings were barely studied, always under the higher quality wall paintings of the same period from Pamplona and Olite, capitals of the old Kingdom of Navarre.

When I studied the paintings I realized that it is important to study them as a whole, not fragmented, or decontextualized from the source. Also, it is important to give the same importance to all the artistic and historical heritage, regardless of their beauty or importance, and focus on the small villages as well, not only on the capitals or cities.

You published a book last year on this topic. Can you tell us about it?

After finishing the final degree paper about the topic, I kept researching about these paintings, trying to publish it in some academic journal. Then, in 2016, when I was an intern in the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, I thought of the possibility of publishing the research as a book with Ekin, the Argentina based Basque publishing house since 1942. After almost two years of work it turned into a beautiful 200-page book with a lot of pictures, which makes it very helpful for an art history book.

What are your next projects? Are you planning to write a new book?

Right now, I am curating a temporary exhibition in the Carlism Museum in Lizarra-Estella, Navarre. The exhibition will feature how the Carlist movement was pictured in cinema. I think it could be very interesting, because most of the times historical cinema doesn´t reflect historical reality. Rather, it reflects the spirit of the time when the film was shot, creating myths to justify the present.

Women Bertsolari: From the First Attempts to the Current Achievements

The bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry is one of the most intimate practices of the Basque language, where poets improvise and sing a song around a concept provided by the audience, following a set of rules about rhyme, meter and melody. For this reason, bertsolaris are some of the greatest masters of the Basque language. Until recently, however, the bertsolaritza was a strictly male domain. The village frontons, squares, and the National Improvised Poetry Competition featured men only, until a few brave female pioneers emerged to reclaim the voices of women in traditional culture.

In traditional Basque society, the fronton or village square was the public stage for the inculcation of values, the performance of identities, the practice of social control, and the negotiation of power. The main protagonists of the fronton were men: men playing pelota, men singing bertsos.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” one of those female pioneers, Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009 for the journal Oral Tradition, after she became the first ever female txapeldun or champion of improvised poetry. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn’t`t belong.” Women’s great jump into the town square, into the public sphere of frontons, sport halls and stadiums, is a powerful metaphor for access in a society where such arenas had been reserved for men.

Maialen Lujanbio sings the winning bertso at the 2017 National Championship:

The CBS Seminar Series featured the bertsolari and PhD student Miren Artetxe Sarasola, who talked about the most important landmarks of this journey in her lecture titled “Women bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements.” Miren defined those landmarks in terms of Pathfinders, i.e. the first women poets who affected a breakthrough in a male realm; Networks, or the organizations created by and for female performers; Theorization, or the academic study of this new cultural development within the broader currents of Basque feminism; and Spaces of Empowerment, where female bertsolaris may find encouragement and inspiration for singing bertsos. The main achievements of the past ten years, Miren argues, is that a different consciousness is emerging around bertsolaritza: new themes and contents emerge through women’s participation, creating a more inclusive cultural sphere that also features women’s worlds and experiences.

Following the lecture, three bertsolaris, Miren Artetxe Sarasola, Maialen Lujanbio and Jesus Goñi sang bertsos at the Center for Basque Studies before a crowd of faculty, students, friends and family. The performances were followed by a potluck snack at the CBS, and a poteo in Louis Basque Corner in downtown Reno.

                  

 

Basque couture designer Cristóbal Balenciaga inspires lush new psychosexual drama Phantom Thread

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned couturier of the 1950s, who designs clothes for the European aristocracy and socialite. Below and beyond the glamour of visiting dames and princesses, whose garderobe he designs from their first communion through first season as debutante to wedding gown, he lives a monkish life. His passion can only thrive in his dogged insistence on routine, whose disruption sends him into rants and rages. Unsurprisingly, women wither away into oblivion by his side, until he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a few decades his junior, who becomes his lover and muse. Phantom Thread is a luxurious, yet menacing story of two strong-willed personalities who find their own, predictably bizarre solution to how to maintain their relationship before the divisive and isolating tendencies of creativity.

The movie`s Reynolds Woodcock is

“a control freak with a monomaniacal zeal for dressmaking largely based on the real-life fashion forefather Cristóbal Balenciaga,”

the The New York Times writes. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was searching for the most cinematographic artist type for his main character when, debating between writer and painter, he picked up a biography of Balenciaga at an airport. “I generally didn’t have that much knowledge or interest in the fashion world until I started finding out a little bit about a guy named Cristóbal Balenciaga,” Anderson said. “He led a very monastic life, completely consumed with his work — sometimes at the expense of other things in his life. Our characters become something very different. Our story focuses on if you have a character like that, what would it take to disrupt his life. Usually, it’s love that does that.”

Balenciaga in 1950, and a cocktail dress designed in 1951.

Phantom Thread indeed diverges liberally from Balenciaga`s life in some ways (for one, Balenciaga was homosexual), but it keeps some of the core elements of the Basque designer`s personality, lifestyle and art. Known as “the King” in the fashion world in general, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “the master of us all,” and Coco Chanel once said he was “the only couturier in the truest sense of the word.” The formal purity, sobriety and sculptural design of his work reflected Balenciaga`s aversion to extravagance. He was reclusive, and prayed daily in a nearby church. He was a true misfit in his environment; as Joseba Zulaika quotes Roland Barthes, “the idea of fashion is antithetic to the idea of sainthood” (That Old Bilbao Moon, 184). In the only interview he ever granted, in his characteristic spirit of brooding melancholy Balenciaga said this about the most opulent of professions:

“Nobody knows what a hard métier it is, how killing is the work. Under all this luxury and glamour. Now c`est la vie d`un chien [it`s a dog`s life].”

Balenciaga was born in Getaria in 1895, and before he designed for the world`s elite, he would first dress Neguri`s and San Sebastian`s upper class through his exhibitions in Bilbao. His designs incorporated elements of Basque traditional costumes. The 1949 December issue of Harper`s Bazaar featured on its cover a Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, a long gathered wool underskirt, generally red, decorated with horizontal bands. “Much of Balenciaga`s creation was nourished by the tension between Spanish and Basque traditional designs and European high modernism,” Zulaika writes in his Old Bilbao Moon (185).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, 1949.

 

The Balenciaga Museum in Getaria.

 

 

 

 

The movie received 6 Academy Award nominations for 2018. For an article about Balenciaga`s person behind the movie in Spanish, see the review in El País: https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/01/23/estilo/1516726594_429501.html

For Phantom Thread, see the trailer here:

 

The Basque film HANDIA is nominated for 13 Goya Awards

 

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The Basque movie Handia (Giant) has been nominated for 13 Goya awards, including best film, best director, and best script. The Goya Awards are granted annually by the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of Spain.

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film appears to be quite interesting as it is based on a true story.  The film begins after one of the protagonists, Martin, returns to his family farmhouse in Gipuzkoa after fighting in the First Carlist War. There he discovers that his younger brother, Miguel Joaquín, is much taller than usual. Convinced that everyone will want to pay to see the greatest man on Earth, both brothers embark on a long journey through Europe in which ambition, money, and fame will forever change the destiny of the family.  

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film Handia tells the true story of Miguel Joaquin Eleizegi Arteaga, a character who in the mid-nineteenth century was known as the Giant of Alzo. Born in 1819 in the Gipuzkoan town of Alzo, he suffered from acromegaly, a disease caused by a defect in the pituitary gland that causes excessive secretion of growth hormones. Miguel Joaquin came to weigh 467 pounds and measured 7’4 feet tall. Unfortunately, Miguel Joaquin died very young at the age of 43 from tuberculosis.

Gigante de Alzo bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

If you want to know more about  Basque Cinema you might like to read the following books: The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and  Political Violence Basque Cinema.

 

 

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