C A N T A B R I A   U N I V E R S I T Y
      TWENTIETH CENTURY ART IN CANTABRIA    Twentieth Century Architecture
Twentieth Century Sculpture
Modern Painting
Modern Painting: Between Tradition and the Avant Garde.  
        Painting in early twentieth-century Cantabria was poor. Nineteenth-century academicism still perdured both in social painting and landscape painting - which in our region had such outstanding painters as Agustín Riancho and Casimiro Saínz. Soon, a number of artists who were dissatisfied with this backwater atmosphere moved abroad, to develop their art and exhibit it in more broad-minded forums.

During the first half of the twentieth century three painters particularly stood out, each with a style very different from the others' whose only point in common was a wish to avoid the pattern of traditional bourgeois tastes. Francisco Iturrino (1864-1924) was linked to the Basque school early on; later, in Paris, he developed a highly-coloured style that was full of light, close to Fauvism and post-Impressionism. His most mature works have a heavy sensualist and luminous charge, as in "Andaluzas" ("Andalusian women"). María Blanchard (1881-1932), after a formative stage of social realist painting ("Gipsy") studied in Paris, where she knew Picasso and juan Gris and adscribed to the late Cubist trend, but without ever abandoning figurative art. Her latest period particularly stands out, in which she develops an ichnography of portraits of children and women that are charged with melancholy, like "Family Meal".

José Gutiérrez Solana (1886-1945) was born in Madrid, but is thought of a as painter close to Cantabria as he lived here for long periods and his work is laden with local themes and customs ("The ramp at Puertochico"). His main characteristic is a certain expressionistic pessimism, recreating a sordid world ("The Rag Men") of low-life neighbourhoods, beggars and brothels. He portrays his "Black Spain" with a dark, sombre style: a unique expressionism, gloomy and of rapid execution.

Together with these innovative painters there were several painters linked to the traditional aesthetic who nonetheless at certain moments in their careers were influenced by more avant garde currents. Significant in this group were Ricardo Bernardo (1897-1940), who evolved from regionalist social realist subjects to a colder, more sober painting linked to Symbolist concepts, as in "Nude"; and Gerardo de Alvear (1877-1964), who remained within the traditional canons but used late-Impressionist elements, Fauvist in tone, and a fluid and highly-coloured technique, as in "Rain over Buenos Aires".

One of the most important visual artists of the middle fifty years of this century (1920-1970) was Pancho Cossío (1894-1974). His conception of painting evolved from academic realism to post-Cubist postulates, his final period being the most significant. This was characterised by a unique idea of painting, close to abstraction, based on transparent films of paint alternating with robust brushwork and mostly treating marine themes, as in "Window on the sea", still lives, and portraits.

A remarkable case is that of the painter Luis Quintanilla Isasi, whose work reflected a commitment to social issues and a familiarity with various avant garde trends. He settled in the United States, and most of his work remains in New York.

Among the painters of the so-called "Postwar Generation", whose style was characterised by a fusion of eclecticism and personalism, Manuel Gómez Raba, Eduardo Pisano, Martín Saínz stand out; as does Antonio Quirós (1912-1984), who was influenced by tarditional painting and by the avant gardes (late Cubism, Surrealism and Symbolism); his figures created with clotted brush-strokes and glass-like layers are remarkable.

Nowadays, many styles, movements, trends and varied techniques co-exist in Cantabria.

Window on the sea
(Pancho Cossío)
A R T I S T I C   H E R I T A G E