Ignacio Zuloaga Museum. Pedraza Castle.
In 1908 the great Eibar-born painter declared “I no longer wish to paint anywhere else but in Castile, the most beautiful place in Spain. I can assure you there were I not married, I would already be on the train heading for my beloved Segovia”.
And in 1909: “… I have but one regret, and that is not being able to live forever in that most magnificent Segovia…”
In 1917:” … I have been travelling to Segovia for eighteen years now; it is there that I have painted all my major works, and it is my wish to continue painting for as long as I am able, as it is a region that has won a place in my affections…”
In 1934, in Paris, Gilbert Gillaume-Reicher published a magazine interview with the artist that included the following phrases: “Quels sont vos endroits préférés en Espagne, Maître? -J’aime Grenade, et le Mulhayacen, mais surtout j’aime Ségovie”.
And in 1945, just a few months prior to his untimely death, he confessed, “That is the reason why I love Castile so deeply; that is the reason Castile has shown me the totality of its light and shadows, its bold contrasts of blues, reds and yellows, and the incomparable shades of grey of its distant hazes; the cornerstones of those defining settings and the only integral landscapes that have formed a constant presence on my palette”.
In 1925, Zuloaga chose the Castle of Pedraza de la Sierra, standing atop a rocky outcrop in the province of Segovia, to satisfy his burning desire for a home in Castile.
Now, and as of the autumn of 2011, his granddaughter, María Rosa Suárez Zuloaga, offers Pedraza, Segovia and all those that visit the castle a magnificent collection of works by this Basque master, as well as objects of immense value from an art collection that, under the influence of his father, he gradually built up from an early age.
Ignacio Zuloaga made his first visit to Segovia towards the end of 1898.
His discovery of Segovia and the first works he painted here would position him at the forefront of the European art world.
Indeed, it was in 1889 whilst staying in the family home of Daniel Zuloaga, his wife and children, that he painted a portrait of Daniel and his eldest daughters Cándida and Esperanza. Just a few months after its completion, it was sold in Paris to the French government and hung in the Luxembourg Museum. The portrait was entitled “My uncle and my cousins”.
Almost immediately following this sale, the Belgian government acquired the painting entitled “The Mayor of Riomoros and his wife” for the Antwerp Museum and “Tipos segovianos” (Men from Segovia) for the Ghent Museum.
On 18th May 1899 he married Valentine Dethomas, a young lady from one of Bordeaux’s leading bourgeoisie families. They enjoyed an extended honeymoon, which included a long stay in Segovia. That year the artist was awarded First Prize in the Barcelona Art Exhibition.
In early 1902 he was made a member of the Paris Salon, which would lead to later exhibitions of his works in Brussels, Berlin, Cologne and Düsseldorf.
In Segovia he found peace and quiet and motifs to portray on canvas. In 1900 he was accompanied by his lifelong friend, the artist Pablo Uranga y Díaz de Arcaya.
Together they rented the abandoned “Casa del Crimen” or House of Crime. The painting entitled “Ignacio and Uranga painting” by Daniel Zuloaga, provides a fascinating glimpse of life in the mansion, where a large, somewhat bleak room with just a huge wooden trunk and easels for furniture would become the artists’ studio. It is highly likely the over the following years this studio would witness the creation of works such as “Enano y dos tipos segovianos” (Dwarf and Two Men from Segovia), “Aldeano segoviano con capa y sombrero” (Segovia Villager with Hat and Cape), “El poeta Don Miguel” (The Poet Don Miguel) , “Antes del paseo” (Getting Ready for a Walk) , “El sereno” (The Night Watchman), “La calle del amor” (The Street of Love), “Coquetería gitana” (Gypsy Coquetry), “Dos bebedores” (Two Drinkers), “Penitente con una calavera” (Penitent with a Skull), “Viejas casas de Segovia” (Old Houses in Segovia), “Rincón segoviano” (A Corner of Segovia), “Preparativos para la corrida” (Preparations for the Bullfight), “El piropo” (The Compliment), “El vendedor de miel” (The Honey Seller), “El alcalde de Torquemada” (The Mayor of Torquemada) and perhaps others besides.
In 1903 he was awarded a Gold Medal in Venice. That same year saw the start of his regular correspondence with Rodin, which would develop into a close friendship that would last until the sculptor’s death. Indeed it was Rodin who, in 1910, introduced Ignacio Zuloaga to the great Segovia guitarist and master of classical Flamenco music, Amalio Cuenco, who would also become a lifelong friend.
The Spanish committee excluded Zuloaga from the group that was to represent Spain. The Italian government reacted by extending a special invitation to the artist. He presented a total of twenty-five works, including fourteen of his “Segovian paintings” and was awarded the King of Italy’s Grand Prize.
His works would travel to Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Munich, and the success of these exhibitions would lead to others in London, Glasgow, Rotterdam, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Zuloaga wrote, “In Munich I have set up my three rooms myself and the exhibition is to open on Thursday. The Infanta Paz brought her entire family to see my paintings and left in a state of shock”.
This 1912 exhibition was indeed attended by the Spanish princess, the wife of Ludwig Ferdinand of Baviera, who often spent the summer in La Granja and would visit Segovia in the company of aristocratic families.
In 1914 he would attend the Paris Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts for the last time. His previous visits were in 1894, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1905, 1980 and 1912. 1914 was the year that the Zuloaga family moved to their home in Zumaya, situated on the Santiago Echea Estate that Ignacio had purchased and restored. Here, in addition to a studio, was the museum housing his art collections, the chapel and a guards’ house.
His sense of personal satisfaction was enhanced when, during this same year, he purchased the house in Fuendetodos where his much-admired Goya had been born. He would open a school in the town and build a monument in honour of Zaragoza-born genius, the work of Julio Antonio (1920).
He played an active role in the 1922 edition of the Cante Jondo Competition in Granada, encouraged by his love of music and his friendship with the organisers, who included Manuel de Falla, Antonio Chacón, Andrés Segovia, Ortega Munilla, Rusiñol, Gallego Burín, and his protégé, Amalio Cuenca.
His dearly-loved Uncle Daniel has passed away in 1921. In 1924 he attended the tribute Segovia paid to this illustrious ceramicist. Emiliano Barral was commissioned to create the bust, but Ignacio played a hand in adding the defining features to his face.
He then purchased the castle in the town of Pedraza. His unconditional friend Rodao, his closest ally since his arrival in Segovia and who had earned his total confidence, left a written account of one of his many journeys to Pedraza in the company of Zuloaga (04.09.12) as well as news of the purchase of the castle in April and November of 1925, as attested by the Notary Public of Segovia Luis Rincón Lezcano on 11th April 1928.
Even in those days Pedraza was far off the beaten track, yet the views from the castle, standing proudly atop a rocky outcrop like a Greek acropolis, stretched for miles and miles. It was a place of rest and meditation. The great Basque artist painted just three works. The “Zuloaga issue” a topic of heated debate in newspapers and cafés for many years, was soon a thing of the past.
Today there is no need to defend Zuloaga; his artistic genius is acknowledged and admired around the world. He retreated to his castle to rest, mediate and avoid having to defend himself. Between the walls he rebuilt for his studio and to enjoy family life, he felt that he was at last in Castile – in his castle – the Castile that he loved so deeply and proved such as rich source of inspiration.
These were years of intense activity for Zuloaga. In 1926, Rodao, in an act of unparalleled courtesy, asked Zuloaga to give away his daughter Adela at her wedding to a leading member of Segovia’s society, Ignacio Carral. And it is in 1926 that Spain paid its first tribute to the works of this distinguished artist by granting him an exhibition in the Palace of Fine Arts that was inaugurated by King Alphonse XIII.
That same year he reproduced the courtyard of the “Los Vizacaínos Tavern” in two drawings that illustrated Falla’s “Master Peter’s Puppet Show”.
Following the proclamation of the Republic, in 1931 he was appointed President of the Madrid Modern Art Museum Trust.
From then on he painted numerous portraits, particularly of his friends, some of whom formed part of the Generation of 98. In 1938 he was awarded the Mussolini Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale.
It was now that he would finally reap the rewards of the glory he had in fact achieved many years previously. In Madrid, the heart of Spain, he was admired, celebrated and presented with numerous accolades. Ignacio Zuloaga died suddenly in his Las Vistilla studio in Madrid on 31st October 1945.
Mariano Gómez de Caso