Tag: art

March 12, 2008: Death of artist Menchu Gal

On March 12, 2008 the Basque artist Menchu Gal Orendain, the first woman to win Spain’s National Prize for Painting (1959) and renowned for her colorful landscapes as well as portraits, died in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Menchu Gal

Born into a middle-class family in Irun, Gipuzkoa, in 1918, she developed an early interest in painting and by the age of seven was studying the art under local painter Gaspar Montes Iturrioz. Recognizing her talent, he encouraged her family to send her to Paris to continue her studies. This she duly did in 1932, enrolling in a school run by French cubist Amédée Ozenfant. She spent two years in Paris, taking advantage of the time there to visit the great museums and exhibitions in this major global art capital. She was particularly drawn to Impressionist and Fauvist works, and especially the oeuvre of Henri Matisse. Thereafter, she continued her studies in Madrid, at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, where her teachers included the celebrated Basque artist Aurelio Arteta.

Menchu Gal at work in 1975

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, together with her family she took refuge in France. She returned to Madrid in 1943 and soon became part of the Young Madrid School of artists, a group of young contemporary artists who exhibited regularly through the 1950s. It was at this time that she focused on landscape painting, particularly representations of the Castilian Meseta, the famed plateau of Don Quixote, and her native Basque Country. As she exhibited more, so she  gained a reputation for her vibrant use of color and the joy she expressed in her painting. And in 1959 she was awarded Spain’s National Prize for Painting for a landscape of Arraioz in the Baztan Valley of Navarre – the first woman to win this award. She continued to exhibit through the 1960s and 1970s, returning to the Basque Country and sponsoring a new generation of young Basque artists. In this regard, she was particularly interested in spotlighting painters and paintings connected with her natal Bidasoa region of Gipuzkoa; organizing retrospective of her first teacher, Montes Iturrioz, and participating in a travelling exhibition, “Painters of the Bidasoa,” in 1986. And she was still painting and exhibiting to the turn of the millennium.

Asked in a 2006 interview to describe the colors of her own particular corner of the Basque Country, the Bidasoa region, she replied:

Green and gray dominate; the trees are green, and the ground gray. The houses are kind of ocher. They don’t have a lot of color. But I love the Aia Massif [a rocky massif straddling the border between Gipuzkoa and Navarre]. I’ve seen it in all its colors. San Marcial [a shrine on a hill overlooking Irun and the Bidasoa region] and the Aia Massif have featured a lot in my painting.

Besides the Spanish National Prize for Paining, she also won many other awards. She was the first woman to receive the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa’s Gold Medal (2005) and in 2007 Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies) awarded her the prestigious Manuel Lekuona Prize.

She died in 2008 and in 2010 the City Council of Irun, in collaboration with the Kutxa Foundation, established the Menchu Gal Room at the Sancho de Urdanibia Hospital in Irun, where some of her work–purchased by the city council itself–is exhibited. That same year, a foundation was established in her name.

Further Reading

Menchu Gal Orendain at the Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.

Menchu Gal, una artista extraordinaria,” by José Javier Fernández Altuna in Euskonews & Media (2007).

 

 

The Basque Country in the 19th Century painted by the Feillet sisters

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Hélène Feillet (1812-1889), as painted by her sister Blanche. Image by TRAILERS MUSEUM, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hélène (1812-1889) and Blanche (1815-1886) Feillet were artists and lithographers of some renown in the mid-19th century. Although born in Paris, they had strong connections to Iparralde, where they lived (in Biarritz) from 1834 on. And they are best known for their many portrayals of the Basque people and landscape in the form of lithographs, watercolors, oil paintings, drawings, and sketches. Their principal focus of interest was the Basque coastline, from Baiona in Lapurdi to Bermeo in Bizkaia, by way of the many fishing towns and villages along the way.

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“Pêcheuses de St-Jean-de-Luz” (Fisherwomen of Donibane Lohizune), by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

They were the daughters of a famous lithographer, Pierre Jacques Feillet (1794-1855), who was also head of the School of Drawing and Painting in Baiona from 1844 until his death – on which Blanche took over the same position. Continuing with their father’s specialty, they gained particular fame as lithographers in their representations of the Basque Country, embracing the romanticist tendencies of the age in their lithographs and prints.

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“Costumes basques” (Basque dress) by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1844 Blanche married Charles-Henri Hennebutte, who ran a printing company in Baiona. His company would later publish well-known guides to the Basque Country, such as Guide du voyageur de Bayonne à St Sébastien and Description des environs de Bayonne et de Saint-Sébastien (France et Espagne: Album des deux frontières), beautifully illustrated by the Feillet sisters. Hélène also exhibited her work in both Paris and London.

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“Entrée du duc de Bayonne en 1839” (Entrance of the Duke of Baiona in 1839) by Hélène Feillet. A work commissioned by the French Ministry of the Interior. Image by Léna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Their art stands as a remarkable testament of the time and place in which they lived and worked, and serves as an invaluable resource for capturing the Basque Country on the cusp of major social change in the mid- and late-19th century.

Chillida art explained scientifically!

Today we’d like to share a short but nevertheless fascinating Basque-related news item. Volume 55 of the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie: International Edition, published on behalf of the German Chemical Society, recently included on its front cover a sculpture by renowned Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002). The image accompanies an article in the journal: “Structurally Defined Molecular Hypervalent Iodine Catalysts for Intermolecular Enantioselective Reactions,” by Dr. Stefan Haubenreisser, Dr. Thorsten H. Wöste, Dr. Claudio Martínez, Prof. Dr. Kazuaki Ishihara, and Prof. Dr. Kilian Muñiz. According to the abstract: “The monumental ‘Elegy to the Horizon’ by the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida oversees the Atlantic coast at the town of Gijón (Asturias, Spain). A similar structural shape is involved in the enantiodiscrimination of alkenes through a chiral iodine(III) catalyst.” It would appear, then, that Chillida captured in his art the structural shape of the intermediate molecule of a chemical process. Remarkable!

Check out the article here for an enchanting intersection between science and art.

 

 

An Interview with Cristina Fernández, visiting artist at the CBS

You may have read our post on Monday on one of our visiting artists, but it’s now Cristina Fernández’s turn in the spotlight. Cristina is a native of Seville, where she received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Seville. She then moved to the Basque Country and obtained an MA in Contemporary, Technological, and Performative Arts last year from the University of the Basque Country. We are very pleased to introduce her as part of our visiting artists residency program.

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  • What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? The Center for Basque Studies is linked through a collaborative project to the university where I studied.  I will be here for two months.
  • What is the goal of your project? The goal of my project is artistic practice. My research in Reno has to do with the city and how we experience it through the images that people upload onto social websites, so the aim of this project is to somehow define how the city itself participates in these networks.
  • What makes your research unique? My work focuses on physical behavior and how we glance at images when we look through the web and begin to create labels. I try to analyze the use of the internet and multimedia files as recycled material for artistic creation, displaying the accumulated empowerment that we have come to associate with images since the very establishment of social websites in 2002.
  • Accordingly, I have created categorizations and labels to effectively sort groupings of data, reaffirming the idea of the disintegration of the relationship between the actual image from the labels we have come to associate with them.
  • What have you accomplished since you arrived? I am still sorting and organizing images. This month, I will develop the final images.
  • Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way (library resources, people)? They have helped me and are friendly people, making us more comfortable here.
  • Are you enjoying the U.S.? Yes, everything is new for me. There are different and interesting people everywhere and the place is very attractive. It is a new experience.
  • What have you missed the most since you’ve been here? Definitely food. I think the dishes in Spain are more elaborate and attractive with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish … quality. But it is nice to try other kinds of food.

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If you’d like to see some of her work, please visit her website: mcristinafernandez.com

 

 

An Interview with Julen Agirre Egibar, visiting artist at the CBS

Julen Agirre Egibar is one of two visiting artists at the CBS this semester. Originally from Azpeitia, a town in the middle of Gipuzkoa, he received his BA in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country (EHU/UPV) and is now finishing his PhD dissertation, set to defend next spring.

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  • What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? How long will you be here?

The reason that I´m here at the moment is because I obtained a grant from the Fine Arts Faculty (EHU/UPV) in order to do an artistic project in the city of Reno at the Center for Basque Studies. The University of the Basque Country and the CBS at the University of Nevada, Reno have a collaboration program for artist residencies. I´m staying in Reno for two months, having arrived at the end of September and returning at the beginning of December.

  • What is the goal of your project?

My artistic project’s name is ZENTER, and it is connected to my dissertation. I’m carrying out an analysis of Reno, more concretely, I am interested in the urban space that is between the city´s center – downtown in this case – and the periphery. The ZENTER project focuses on this intermediate place, because, in my opinion, these spaces still are not active in a sense, and contain a lot of tensions. This study matches the conclusions in my dissertation. I hope to create an archive and material, in order to bring it into my sphere of work.

  • What makes your research unique?

I don´t know if my research is necessarily unique, but I know that it is a very concrete research field. I am interested in investigating the concept of disturbing strangeness, and, in a sense, I try to demonstrate this concept in places like houses, cities, and non-spaces (suburbs). 

  • What have you accomplished since you arrived?

The city of Reno, precisely its downtown area, is very well adapted to my research criteria, and this feature is very important to the development of my artistic project.

  • Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way (library resources, people)?

For a start, I have a very appropriate space at the Center for Basque Studies to carry out my work, so I am grateful to Joseba Zulaika and the rest of the people at the center. All of its resources, in general, are useful for me.

  • Are you enjoying the U.S.?

This is the second time that I have stayed in the U.S. and  I am obviously enjoying it. I mention the U.S. in my dissertation many times. On the one hand, I analyze the city of Los Angeles, and on the other, I have introduced some American artists, among whom the filmmaker David Lynch, whose work takes up the main idea of my dissertation, stands out.

  • What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

I don´t know, I think that I haven’t missed anything since I got here, quite the opposite, this is an excellent experience for my artistic career.


We are happy to have Julen here with us and hope he enjoys his stay. He is a welcome addition to our center.

Researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica at UNR

The Center is welcoming the visit of art researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica. They will be in residence until December 21.

Oihane Sanchez

Oihane is a second-year graduate student at the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. Her project consists in relating the Guggenheim Museum with the metropolitan area of Bilbao in general, and with the local artists in particular. She plans to compare these relationships with those taking place in the American Far West–in cities such as Reno.

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Leire Baztarrica

Leire is a photographer and designer. She is a fifth-year student specializing in Creativity and Design within the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. The project she plans to develop is a study of Reno’s neon lights, analyzing their formal aspects, colors, and symbolic content, as well as cataloging them. As part of her research, she also plans to interview and photograph local people. See some of Leire’s work here.

Ismael Manterola Ispizua from the University of the Basque Country visits the CBS

 

Ismael Manterola Ispizua, art history professor at the EHU/UPV

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies Ismael?

A couple of years ago I presented my project to obtain the Douglass Scholarship. It was a project I had in mind since then.  In fact I decided to publish a book. In recent years I made some progress on the book so I decided that it would be a good idea to consult the Basque Library and applied for USAC scholarship.

Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?

My aim is to finish the book I am writing. The book is about the transmission of values in the twentieth-century art in the Basque Country. I think there are certain values that artists transmitted throughout the twentieth century, from the modern project of the early twentieth-century to the end of the 90s (values like the trend associations, thinking about identity, the link between art and ethical positions, etc.). Basically, it is the research of a kind of an intergenerational continuity or continuities in Basque contemporary art.

What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I am working very hard and I managed to finish some chapters due the rhythm of work you have in the library. In my opinion it is a good place to work. You can work for 8 straight hours at a time and you have all the books you need to hand.

Are you enjoying the U.S.?

Yes, a lot. I am discovering different aspects of American life very quickly. In addition I am in a USAC program and they organize lot of activities to get to know the country better, especially the cultural life you have here. Besides this, summer in Reno is exciting with an interesting cultural program in different places, but especially in downtown: music, art, cinema…

 

Naiara professor of Basque Language and Culture of the University of Navarre.

 

Naiara Ardanaz Iñarga, professor of Basque language and culture at the University of Navarre, visits CBS.

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies Naiara?

The opportunity to use the such an interesting library. The Basque Library has many books related to anthropological and ethnographic topics.  Here I have an opportunity to check out French and Spanish publications about Basque topics.

Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?

I am researching religiosity around hermitages on the border between Navarre and Iparralde. I am going to start analyzing the Bortziri region.

Would you say that this research, is quite unique?

There are a striking number of hermitages in Navarre, yet research on these hermitages has been quite general, more related to their artistic aspects or ethnography. My research is focused on combining history, art, tradition, and the beliefs that existed around these sacred spaces, and also the importance of the border.

What have you accomplished since you arrived?

The research is in its initial stages. During these three months that I am going to spend at the CBS I want to finish the theoretical framework in order to start analyzing the materials about these topic (ethnographic inquiries) and my investigation of the ecclesiastical and civil archives of Navarre. I am sure that my research is going to expand during this time because it is very wide, it is very interesting, and it is not such a widely studied topic.

Are you enjoying the U.S.?

A lot. Everyday I am experiencing new and disconcerting situations. There are big cultural differences and I am finding the experience so enriching. On the other hand, being in Nevada is especially significant for me because there is a major Navarrese community in the area. I am experiencing the opportunity to stay with them and learn about their experience as sheepherders, here in Nevada.