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MAXAM Foundation
"Julio Romero de Torres was above all a free artist"
"Julio Romero de Torres was above all a free artist" "Julio Romero de Torres was above all a free artist"


MAXAM Foundation - Press room - Interviews - "Julio Romero de Torres was above all a free artist"

Marisa Oropesa, a professional with an extensive career as a cultural manager and art curator, talks to us about her latest project, "Julio Romero de Torres. Painter of Souls". The exhibition is currently showing in Zaragoza, and includes three paintings from the MAXAM collection.

The soul is considered to be intangible and invisible, and as such, impossible to represent pictorially. So how does Julio Romero de Torres do it?
The closest we can come to an understanding of this ability of Romero de Torres is through the way in which the intellectuals of his time defined both the artist and his work. Valle Inclán asserted that the Cordoban artist was “aware that the true essence is not the actual truth we capture with our eyes, but rather that which can only be discovered when the spirit couples with a mysterious rhythm of emotion and harmony: which is aesthetic joy."

Apart from souls, what else did Julio paint?
He was a painter who defied the stale and conventional academic style – an intellectual who was concerned with the prevailing moral and social issues of his time. As we distance ourselves in time, it becomes clear that Romero de Torres ventured to paint modern women not solely for their beauty, but for the strength they possessed and transmitted. It was a very different way of viewing women, closer to that of the turn-of-the-century styles emerging from other European countries that had a more open view than our own. Julio Romero de Torres was above all a free artist, and that freedom is what sets him apart from his contemporaries.

What criteria did you follow in selecting the 30 pieces included in this exhibition?
We wanted to underscore his role as an exceptional eyewitness of his time, during which he painted a wide range of people of all social standings, offering a testimony of the Spanish way of life in those years.

Before coming to Zaragoza, this exhibition was shown in Badajoz. How was it received by the public?
It was a great success, and has been the most-visited exhibition at the museum to date.

For a long time, Romero de Torres was considered an emblem of popular Spanish character. To what degree is this true? Is there anything more to this?
The artists’s eschewed -isms and artistic vanguards, were rebuffed by official juries, and enjoyed great acceptance among the public – three elements which, compounded by the use that the Franco regime made of his art, regrettably caused his work to be brushed aside for decades. Romero de Torres's artwork was used as an instrument of propaganda during this period, perhaps because what they saw in him was an artist who painted dark-haired women and felt that this would make for good publicity. A 100 peseta note was even issued in 1953 featuring a portrait of the artist, a fact that could hardly have been imagined on the day of his death. In Córdoba, shops and cafés were closed, and the Casa del Pueblo worker's co-operative encouraged labourers to honour the painter, whom they referred to as an "unflagging worker, an imminent craftsman of art." And like a labourer, he was carried upon the shoulders of labourers to his grave. But it was this devotion that contributed to the unfortunate legend of the artist cliché, distorting his true qualities. In truth, he is far from the folkloric stereotype depicted in his paintings; the poetic Andalusian language of Julio Romero de Torres draws inspiration from many sources, making him one of the great Symbolists of the 20th century.

It seems that his work is garnering more attention now than decades ago. What do you attribute this to?
We are now seeing the re-emergence of great Spanish artists that were once obscured by names like Picasso, Miro and Dali. In addition to these eminent names, today we can find essential figures from Spanish art history who over time are finally receiving the recognition they deserve. Such is the case of Joaquin Sorolla, Ignacio Zuoloaga, and of course, Julio Romero de Torres.

The MAXAM Collection holds four pieces by this artist which illustrated our almanacs in 1924, 1925, 1929 and 1931. What do they represent within his body of work?
They are examples of his versatility and of the recognition he enjoyed during his lifetime. They are important pieces from his artistic career, because having your work featured in the almanacs of the Spanish Explosives Union was a way of reaching thousands of homes. We can highlight that El Cohete (The Rocket), the image that graced the cover of the 1931 calendar, was painted just a few months before the artist's death.

Julio Romero de Torres. Painter of Souls.
June 11th - September 8th 2019
Patio de la Infanta, Fundación Ibercaja
Zaragoza (Spain)


Last update 2020.05.21
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