english text 168 the intense heat made up an enigmatic Tangier full of out-of-the-way places for a photographer from a cold country in the north of Europe to discover. In his pictures of groups (La charla The Chat, 1943) and of crowds (Espectadores Spectators, Tangier, 1942) he focuses on this more typical view of an ancient country, stuck in time and remote from modernity. Djellabas, veils and slippers are the garments worn by the figures clustered in tiny streets or in souks (Mercados de esteras Mat Markets, 1944) in which the shapes of the women merge with the bundles of goods that are exhibited. Müller lived in that city for several years, at an extraordinarily convulsive time for Europe, yet he never took a real interest in it or established relationships with its inhabitants. The fascination with the Arab world was also shown in the work of various Valencian artists, for example, in José Benlliure’s painting Escena de Tánger (Recitando el Corán) (Scene in Tangier Reciting the Koran), 1897, and also in several canvases by Antonio Muñoz Degraín (1840–1924) resulting from the journey that he made along the part of the Mediterranean that includes Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. One of the most outstanding of those paintings is El Líbano desde el mar (Lebanon from the Sea), 1909, a vibrantly coloured painting with an intense range of different hues (contrasting yellows, blues and oranges) in which we see a rough natural setting formed by two parallel lines of mountains and a range of higher, snowy mountains in the background. In the foreground, two strange boats with prows adorned with fantastical animals are advancing by means of sails and oars in the middle of a calm, pleasant sea full of other small boats with colourful sails unfurled. That Mediterranean Sea, with its facets of fantasy and mystery on the one hand and of pleasantness and peacefulness on the other, became a central object of attention for many artists in the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and they eagerly discovered it and represented it in a vibrant, lively way. Those painters showed pleasant, relaxed, idealised bucolic scenes in which nature was the central subject, represented in such a way that it won favour with viewers and became one of the favourite genres of the public in those years. The interest in landscape as a pure, fundamental element ran parallel to the development of genre painting, pictures in which what predominated was a harmonious, tranquil, pleasant view of a place and in which there was a focus on the beauty of the surroundings, with a lyrical tone in which there was no room for any kind of stridency. The landscapes are generally ordinary scenes in which we perceive an almost idyllic tranquillity in a clear, balanced natural setting. As the scenes were aimed mainly at the viewer’s senses, the artists chose a nervous, changing, light, gestural style in which the important thing was to capture the many nuances produced by the sound of the water, the hues acquired by the natural setting and the voluptuousness brought about by the natural light. An aestheticist view in a sensual landscape. In this context we can understand the presence in the exhibition of works such as Anochecer en la escollera III (Dusk on the Breakwater III), 1898–1900, by Ignacio Pinazo (1849–1916), which gives a rather Romantic view of a few people sitting on some rocks and gazing, entranced, at an infinite horizon made up of sea and sky, a horizontal composition in a refined, synthetic setting in which there is no place for superfluous or anecdotal elements. Figures seated with their backs to the viewer, perhaps fishing, chatting, looking at the sea or just calmly letting the hours slip by. But at that moment of dusk when the sun is setting and there seems to be a glimpse of a boat on the horizon, the artist succeeds in transmitting a solid sensation of peace and a profound feeling of wellbeing (also accompanied by a certain anxiety) produced by the immensity of the sea. Similarly, in his painting Ráfaga de viento (Gust of Wind), 1904, Joaquín Sorolla (1863–1923) is able to create a volatile atmosphere in which the predominant sensation is the lightness, speed and dynamism produced by the wind (thrusting against the huge sail), and this becomes the central feature of the painting. In this work, with its strong contrasts of light, Sorolla recreates an everyday work scene in which the fishermen strive to perform their hard, strenuous tasks in perfect harmony with the boat and the water, as if they were engaged in a tranquil adventure in a boat on a bright, peaceful sea. Some decades later, another Valencian painter, Francisco Lozano (1912–2000), approached the scenery of the Mediterranean beaches with serene, almost ascetic views in which the most insignificant detail of nature takes on great importance in the picture. In his paintings the beaches consist of a strip of sand with some very old boats (Marina, 1956) and with a boundless sea forming the horizon. We perceive a clean, sober scene reduced to essentials, in which Lozano shuns the more facile scenic aspects and opts for a representation of nature whose strength and power lies in its sobriety, a calm and somewhat timeless scene based on a world of poetic sensations. In the same period, the 1950s and 1960s, there were two other artists who were very successful in capturing that melancholy, poetic idea of a society closely linked to the sea, in black and white photographs that now remain as genuine social testimony of a very characteristic way of living and working. Both Gabriel Cualladó (1925–2003) and José Miguel de Miguel (1916–1988) were privileged witnesses of a society that was beginning to change radically. The pictures that Cualladó took on the Malvarrosa beach in the late 1950s are very beautiful representations of the vestiges (Sillas en la playa Chairs on the Beach, 1956, or Heladero Ice Cream Seller, 1957) of an age that was finished but that was no less mythicised for all that. In the same period Miguel de Miguel captured some very different scenes of the ports of Cartagena, Valencia and Ibiza, in which nets, equipment and barges (Joven pescador Young Fisherman, 1964) become objects with solid poetic cadences.
Entre el mite i l'espant
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