Friday, September 18, 2015

The Zuloagas: Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta

Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (1870 –1945) was a Basque painter, born in Eibar (Guipuzcoa).
He was the son of metalworker and damascener  Plácido Zuloaga and grandson of the organizer and director of the royal armoury (Don Eusebio) in Madrid. His uncle was Daniel Zuloaga. His great-grandfather who was also the royal armourer was a friend and contemporary of Goya.
Zuloaga was fervently attached to the nationalist Falangist forces during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorial regime of the Generalissimo Franco, whose portrait he painted in 1940. While the aerial devastation of Basque villages by volunteer airmen from Nazi Germany propelled Picasso to paint the epic and modern painting of Guernica, Zuloaga chose instead to honor the Siege of the Alcázar in 1936, when the building's Nationalist defenders refused to surrender despite the building being in flames. This siege, and other events such as the death of General Moscardo's son, served as a rallying cry for the anti-Republican forces. The nationalist content of such a work was allied to Zuloaga's celebration of folk traditions. However, in Spain, over the centuries, this anti-cosmopolitan nationalist focus had also been used to deport groups such as Jews, Moors, and Gypsies. Franco's forces allied it with the Fascist urge to distil countries into unitary aggregates. Stylistically, the directness of the Siege painting also avoids modernity's challenge to realistic depictions; falangism was not endeared to complex symbolism such as found in works such as Guernica.
While it may seem surprising for a Basque to have been sympathetic to the forces that levelled his hometown of Eibar, and for a Generalissimo that for years suppressed the teaching of Basque language in Spain, however, the Basque countries was also home to supporters of Carlism and their militia, the Requetés, who formed an uneasy alliance with the Falange.
In an April, 1939 letter Zuloaga stated:

"Thanks to God, and to Franco, at last the war is won and over! And over, despite the goodwill of those so-called democratic countries – what a farce, what shame, when those countries learn the truth of this drama! We all will work with all our strength to rebuild a new Spain (free, great and unified) to Spanishize Spain, and get rid of all outside influences, so that we can keep our great nature. That’s my dream in art. I hate fads (which are destructive to racial characteristics) One must (for good or bad) be oneself, and not ape the style of anyone else. I will dedicate the years that are left to me to that end. What shame there will be in the future, for those countries who inflicted crime, savage vandalism, which reigned within the soviet clan in Spain!"

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