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José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945)

Valentín Ruiz Senén

ca. 1934


Oil on canvas, 200 x 145 cm


Signed at the lower right corner “J. Solana”

All Solana’s portraits are of male sitters, shown as isolated within their own worlds and surrounded by objects, pieces of furniture and documents that function to individualise them. In these works the artist commemorated men whom he had come to admire for their wisdom or their professional skills, depicting them on the canvas with absolute realism.

Within Solana’s output, commissioned portraits were the exception, solely comprising this image of Valentín Ruiz Sénen and one of Miguel de Unamuno dating from 1936.

Both images convey the unique, inner psychology of the sitter, contrasting with the anonymous characterisation normally to be found in the artist’s depictions of his figures.

This canvas depicts the Bilbao industrialist and financier Valentín Ruiz Senén surrounded by books, ships and maps, including the model of a ship that was named after him in recognition of his position as president of the Arosa Shipping Company.

Solana depicts the same armchair that he painted in The Physicist and The Bibliophile and also introduces the device of a “painting within a painting” that he had used in his portrait of The Merchant Navy Captain and The old Ship Owner. All these works deploy a similar compositional structure with a frontal perspective and the figures defined by a simple use of colour, located in front of a large piece of furniture that runs across the background in the manner of a frieze.

María José Salazar