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José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945)

Mexican clay

ca. 1930-1932


Oil on canvas, 116 x 159 cm


Signed at the lower right corner “J. Solana”

As a promoter and defender of the Spanish School of Painting, José Gutiérrez Solana, at the height of his career, executed a large number of still lifes, which reveal the inanimate world that surrounded his life. A world populated by carvings, mannequins, wax figures, present in his work from the beginning, but which now emerge more luminous, gaining prominence, stripped of their popular tinge, converted almost into a cult image.

In the still lifes he recreates the inanimate beings of his environment which he first exhibited in 1929 in the halls of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Madrid, which in the words of the critic Gil Fillol «… are magnificent syntheses of Solana's way of thinking»[1].

These paintings contrast with his genre scenes and his carnivals, in which objects and even people are interpreted from an emotional distance. It is as if he turned his gaze towards his familiar surroundings, which is why we can perceive a certain delicacy, even tenderness, in this evocation of memories, which he presents with great expressive force and with a use of light that we rarely find in other compositions.

These clay figures, full of detail, representing popular Mexican characters, were undoubtedly part of his everyday environment, and have their origin in the collection of idols and small images that his father treasured in his office, perhaps as a souvenir of his country of origin, where he spent his childhood. Through his representation, he seems to want to pay homage to his figure.

The scene, frozen in time, is easy to read. The composition, harmoniously balanced, presents, through a frontal perspective of staggered planes, two-dimensional images that allow us to discern rounded forms.

With this work Solana confirms that his aesthetic, from a conceptual point of view, remains unchanged, although formally there is a great transformation, especially in the use of colour.

It is a high point in his artistic process, which he has reached through a slow evolution, especially in terms of colour, which is embodied in this painting full of nuances, closer to realism than to naturalism, in which he harmonises the range of his favourite colours, stained yellows, ochres, browns, without abandoning that enveloping melancholic atmosphere which personalises his production.

María José Salazar

[1] Fillol, Gil, Las naturalezas muertas de Solana. El Imparcial, Madrid, 8 March, 1929