Foto 1997. Cartel de Félix de Cárdenas.
The Bull and the Arts
The Bullfighting Festival has been a subject treated by artists of different types in all the expressive disciplines
In Spanish literature, the phenomenon of bullfighting appears as a constant presence, but at first in an isolated manner, as if in passing, and it was not used as the central protagonist or main occurrence until the beginning of Romanticism, the period in which bullfighting festivals began to be arranged as regulated and well-organized events, and in which their principal actors, the bullfighters, became popular heroes.
Apart from Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, one of the few XVIIIth century intellectuals who dealt with bullfighting (Oda a Pedro Romero, Carta histórica sobre el origen y progresos de las fiestas de toros en España), Professor Alberto González Troyano drew attention to a singular aspect: “…the role of awakening the potential for argument that is inherent in the world of bullfighting seems to have fallen on foreign romantic writers.”
Stories of love between the hero (the bullfighter) and a lady, in an atmosphere charged with pure breeding, thus became the basis of a large part of the literature associated with bullfighting. Merimée and the bullfighter in his Carmen; El toreador by the Duchess of Abrantes; Militona by Théophile Gautier; Cartucherita by Arturo Reyes and Sangre y Arena by Blasco Ibáñez all provided this essential component, with the addition of a tragic element, the death of the bullfighter in front of his beloved.
In the XXth century, several works by national and foreign authors were published, among which we can highlight three because of their international transcendence: the previously-mentioned Sangre y Arena, by Blasco Ibáñez; Fiesta and Verano sangriento by Ernest Hemingway.
Federico García Lorca
“I consider that bullfighting is the most cultured of all the festivals”, wrote Federico García Lorca. The writers of his generation were perhaps the first to consider that bullfighting belonged more to the field of artistic creation. Representative of this proximity is the picture of the members of the Generation of the 27 assembled in Seville round the figure of the bullfighter and patron Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, on whose death Lorca himself wrote one of the most moving poetic elegies of all time. Poets such as Gerardo Diego and Rafael Alberti left numerous proofs of their interest, as did José Bergamín with La música callada del torero, and Vicente Aleixandre, Dámaso Alonso, José María Pemán, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Angel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, Jorge Guillén and Jean Cocteau, among others.
Poster from the film directed by F. Niblo and starring Rudolph Valentino, 1922.
Iberian bull of Porcuna, VIth century B.C. Limestone.
Museum of Jaén.
Bull of Azaila, IInd century B.C. Bronze.
National Archaeological Museum, Madrid.
Bull of Costitx, IVth-IIIrd century B.C. Bronze.
National Archaeological Museum, Madrid.
Bullfighter, 1913. Manolo Hugué. Stone.
National Art Gallery of Catalonia, Barcelona.
Cave of la Pileta
Benaoján ( Málaga).
In the first artistic representations of Man on the Earth there are figures of bulls. Pedro Romero de Solís reminds us in one of his studies that from the Cave of La Pileta de la Serranía in Ronda, passing through Lascaux in the Dordogne, to the Grotte de Chauvet in the French Ardèches, 30,000 years ago figures of animals appeared as if miraculously in secret places, inaccessible in the depths of the earth. Among them were figures of bulls which, being the first known paintings created by men, are perhaps the most perfect and beautiful that we know.
Subsequently, under the influence of the civilizations of Egypt and the Orient, a powerful culture was born on the island of Crete, which eventually dominated the Mediterranean. Excavations in Crete brought forth numerous and beautiful representations of the bull and, especially significant, bullfighting scenes that were painted al fresco on the walls of the main patio of the palace of Knossos, which must have served as a bullring. It was there that the half-man, half-bull monster, to which legend gave the name of the Minotaur, was born. Picasso, who knew every detail of the archaeological discoveries in Crete, made this chimera his own and converted it into one of the sources of his pictorial creation.
In the Iberian Peninsula there are many figures of bulls, sculpted by the Iberian peoples from various different materials. Mediaeval and Renaissance art has left evidence of popular bullfighting festivals. In the Baroque period, the nobility became strongly involved with the games with bulls, and bullfighting scenes began to appear in paintings and prints, reflecting the social importance that they had acquired in that period.
After a period of history during which there was a certain ostracism, because of a variety of circumstances both political and social, it was through Goya that the popular form of tauromachy, the one on foot, began to be prominent in pictorial representations. The great blossoming of bullfighting painting in the XIXth century was closely related to the journeys of foreign writers -English and French especially- in Spain, and of the illustrators who frequently accompanied them to reproduce scenes showing the customs of our country. The bullring of the Maestranza de Sevilla would become a model renowned in the world, and many painters depicted their bullfighters fighting there.
The artistic vanguards of the XXth century, typified by Picasso, dealt with the world of bullfighting. It can be claimed that Goya and Picasso represented the highest artistic expression in the interpretation of bullfighting, and were instrumental in giving it a global dimension. Since then, numerous works by contemporary painters have approached this environment. An example of this phenomenon is the emergence of the bullfighting poster in the nineteen twenties, in which competent artists participated, as evidenced today by the poster collection of the Real Maestranza.