Operation rescue of missing paintings in Barcelona

Beautiful, young, smiling.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 May 2023 Friday 05:05
8 Reads
Operation rescue of missing paintings in Barcelona

Beautiful, young, smiling. "He wears short hair a la garçon, black pants and a white shirt. You see that portrait and you realize that she was a tremendously modern woman. But you look at another photograph taken a few years later and she looks like a nun. What happened in between? A horrible war. It happened to many women." The journalist and writer Toya Viudes did not know her, but when she was studying in Madrid she made frequent trips to the Reina Sofia to contemplate Adam and Eve, the painting of her bestie Rosario de Velasco (Madrid, 1904-Sitges, 1991) that hung in the rooms between Maruja Mayo and Ángeles Santos. "Without that painting we wouldn't be talking about her today. It is the flame that has kept him alive. Now it's time to revive it", he points out.

Rosario de Velasco was a painter who, as her friend Eugeni d'Ors wrote in an article published in La Vanguardi in 1945, "made a Sicilian horse entrance, not a circus zebra", participated and obtained prizes at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts, he exhibited in Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, at the Venice Biennale..., he produced a lot and sold a lot, and his work, in addition to the Reina Sof ia, is part of from the collections of the Fine Arts Museum of Valencia (The Massacre of the Innocents, misattributed for years to Ricardo Verde Rubio) or the Center Pompidou (and Carnival).

How is it possible that his name is today little more than a secret shared by a handful of specialists? Rosario de Velasco suffered the same fate as so many female artists who were respected and celebrated during their lifetime and then fell into oblivion.

Let them call it if not Toya Viudes. She grew up at home with one of Aunt Rosario's paintings, Les bugaderes, dreaming that one day she would have an exhibition, and after achieving the seemingly impossible, that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was enthusiastic about the project, she has encountered the difficulty of locating his work, much of which is scattered in private collections. "We are looking for his lost work, we are on the trail of some paintings that we know were auctioned a few years ago in Barcelona. And of any other that may appear!” An SOS launched from Twitter which, to his surprise, is already beginning to give unexpected results. No "we haven't been able to see each other yet because I was leaving for Rome, but a lady has contacted me who says she thinks she has several of his paintings at home", explains Viudes, who provides an email address in case someone can put - her on some track (toyaviudes67@gmail.com).

Because he "thinks" he has it? In the case of Rosario de Velasco, inquiries have taken him to the auction houses and galleries where he exhibited, which either cannot provide the buyer's details without his consent (many years have passed and on the other side of the landline no one answers) or directly the files are no longer there. Added to this is the fact, not unimportant, that the painter did not sign with her name but with a monogram (a V embracing an R), "so there will surely be those who have her work and do not know it is of her", warns Viudes, who will be the curator of the Thyssen exhibition (still without date) with Miguel Luzarreta.

"She signed like this inspired by the anagram of Dürer, whom she admired. I don't think she wanted to hide her status as a woman", says Viudes. Nevertheless, in one of the few interviews that have been preserved, she confesses to a journalist friend that throughout her life she has pursued being a "woman painter: not to make a painting of a woman, but one that could be confused with that of painters because to be true art, without anyone valuing it from lower levels, starting from my femininity".

At least that's the legend. "It is said that a neighbor whispered and was arrested and taken to La Model to be shot the next day. What is certain - explains Viudes - is that he spent one night there and that he managed to save himself thanks to the prison doctor, Dr. Javier Farrerons, whom he had met at the home of the publisher and collector Gustau Gili , and whom he later married almost clandestinely in the middle of the war. She always remembered that her cellmate was indeed executed." In 1937 he crossed the border with France on foot, where his only daughter, María del Mar, was born. After the war, they returned to Barcelona, ​​where he permanently established his home in Carrer Consell de Cent.

"There is a before and an after of his work. The first is much more surprising and explosive", he considers. Eugeni d'Ors, in this article, described those beginnings in a much more grandiose way. The writer wondered "why the history of art does not have, for any of its peaks of glory, a woman's name" and, immediately, pointed out De Velasco as a great candidate. “He entered the official competitions; and there it was a matter, no longer of blowing and making bottles, but of arriving, seeing and conquering, that of winning all the triumphs and picking up the best laurels”. At first attributed to a new realism related to the European current of recovery of classicism, such as the new German objectivity or the Italian valori plastici, D'Ors himself, who dubbed the artist "the Pola Negri of painting Spanish", he invited her to participate in 1944 at the II Saló dels Onze, where she exhibited together with Pablo Gargallo or Torres García.

The critic Cesáreo López de Aguilera spoke about his second stage on the occasion of an exhibition at the Biosca gallery in Madrid in 1971: "Your work now is no longer that initial work, but is more relaxed, more mature, more dense, more typical of the walls of old stately homes or old museums....”. A good friend of Dionisio Ridruejo, Pere Pruna or Carmen Conde, she collaborated with the magazine Vértice and illustrated books such as Cuentos para soñar and P She also enjoyed the esteem of critics and, in 1968, obtained the Sant Jordi prize shared with Ignasi Mundó.

A repolite ABC journalist described her as follows in 1932: "A girl with the skin of toasted bread, black hair in a mane, hands with sweet movements and brown eyes in the iris of which a drop of honey sparkles ".