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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Santiago Rusiñol

Copyright, Jim Lane
The painting on the left of Alhambra is from Rusinol's Garden Series.
Pablo Picasso's sketch of
Santiago Rusiñol
Barcelona, 1899-1900
As an artist who paints almost entirely from photos, I've long found it interesting to compare photos now to paintings of the same landscape done back then. As I've traveled about Europe and other parts of the world, I make it a point to shoot pictures of famous landmarks which have long been favorite painting subjects for artists down through the centuries. Cities and famous landmarks are the easiest venues from which such comparisons can be made. As an example, sometime around 1900, the Spanish painter, Santiago Rusinol, painted the pool patio at Alhambra (above, left). This year, 2015, roughly a hundred years later, in visiting the same Moorish palace and gardens, I shot the same pool and same patio, though without the small fountain in the foreground. My photo, of course, by comparison, is less than eye-catching while Rusinol's version is exceptional in its cool, classic beauty. Although the lighting and composition are quite different between my photo and Rusinol's painting, if you study the two carefully, you'll also notice that Rusinol took some liberties with the scale and perspective, foreshortening the pool slightly. I also noticed that, for some unknown reason, his painted image is "flipped." I found that my photo had architectural features on the right side of the patio which were on the left side in his painting. I flipped my photo so that they would be identical for the sake of simpler comparisons.

Rusinol's Garden with Fountain, (left) and a modern-day photo (right) of the same site.
Although he was a more than adequate portrait artist, Santiago Rusinol has long been known as a "garden painter," a title he very richly deserves. However gardens, such as Rusinol's Garden with a Fountain (above, left), are manmade arrangements of nature decorated with manmade items-- fountains, paths, benches, etc. The fountain above, for example, may or may not be the same one Rusinol painted. If it is, there certainly have been some redesign efforts, quite apart from any "redesigning" of the scene instigated by nature.

Café en Montmartre, 1890, Santiago Rusinol
Santiago Rusinol was a Catalan, born in Barcelona in 1861. He came from a family of wealthy textile manufacturers, though even as early as his teen years, he showed no interest in any pursuits other than art. His art training began at the Center for Watercolorists in Barcelona, but like so many artists of his day, by the time Rusinol was eighteen, he was on his way to Paris. Though Rusinol was twenty years older than fellow Catalan, Pablo Picasso, their early years tend to run parallel along the same course. The sketch of Rusinol by Picasso (top, left) would indicate they knew one another and were good friends. Picasso is said to have been influenced by Rusinol. A decade before Picasso reached Paris, Rusinol was a denizen of Paris' Montmartre café scene. He shared a studio with Ramon Casas and Ignacio Zuloaga. His Café en Montmartre (above) from 1890, captures the aura of this era quite well.

Santiago Rusinol
Portrait of Utrillo, 1890,
Santiago Rusinol
As a student in Paris, Rusinol attended the Gervex Academy where he assimilated Impressionism, then the rage of the French art scene, but also became involved in the more avant-garde Symbolism. Judging by the Portrait of Maurice Utrillo, (right) from 1890-91, Rusinol was skilled at combining the urban landscape with his portrait efforts. When he returned to Spain in the mid-1890s, Rusinol first settled in the small town of Stiges, then migrating to Barcelona not long before a young Picasso left town to make his name in Paris. Thus, it was in the Barcelona café, El Quatre Gats (the Four Cats) that Rusinol likely first met Picasso. As Picasso headed for the big city, Rusinol headed for the countryside and particularly the carefully manicured gardens of the country villas near Madrid and Barcelona. Perhaps the most famous of his paintings from this period was the "Chinese pagoda" (or at least what passed for Chinese in Spain at the time) of the melancholic gardens of Aranjuez (below). Again we have the painting and a photo of the "roundabout," giving us some idea of when and where Rusinol followed the nature of the scene and nurture of his art instincts and training.

Roundabout at Sunset, Arenjuez (left), Santiago Rusinol, with present day photo (right).
In the early years of the 20th-century, perhaps having painted every garden in Spain, Rusinol began making periodic trips south with his friend and fellow artist, Joaquin Mir Trinxet, to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where he found a lighter, brighter, dryer type of landscape and garden beauty, as seen in his Terraced Garden in Mallorca (below, left) and a similar painting with the same title from 1911 (below, right).

Terraced Garden in Mallorca,
1904, Santiago Rusinol
Terraced Garden in Mallorca,
1911, Santiago Rusinol

Incidentally, in pouring over Rusinol's sizable offerings of garden landscapes, I encountered something I'd never seen before. Many of the photos I post are from sites offering hand-painted copies of famous paintings. That's fine with me. The prices seem reasonable, the quality of work does too, and the works offered are long since beyond copyright protection. However today, I came upon Rusinol's Patio de los Naranjos (below, right), an autumn scene typical of the artist's work during the first decade or two of the 20th century. The site was so far as I know a perfectly reputable site.

However, a few minutes later I came upon a second Website, which featured the same exact scene except that it appears to have been digitally recolored to look like a summer scene (below, left). The site seems to be informational rather than one selling anything, yet I couldn't help but be amazed that such a site would post such a radically altered image among its otherwise apparently accurate works by Rusinol. At first I thought perhaps the artist had painted the same scene during two different seasons (a not-unheard-of-practice), but after closer inspection, I doubt that's the case. Except for the coloration, both images are exactly alike in every detail.

Patio de los Naranjos, Santiago Rusinol. Take your pick,
summer on the left, autumn on the right (the authentic version). 
Santiago Rusinol and Ramon Casas, Barcelona sidewalk
sculpture. I'd be interested to know the translation to
English of the words on the "canvas."


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