Spanish Painting: Recreating a Perceived ‘Golden Age’

Baker-Bates, Piers (2022). Spanish Painting: Recreating a Perceived ‘Golden Age’. In: Potter, Matthew C. ed. Representing the Past in the Art of the Long Nineteenth Century: Historicism, Postmodernism, and Internationalism. Routledge Research in Art History. Routledge, pp. 106–123.



This chapter explores historical painting in nineteenth-century Spain and identifies the importance of selection in the subject matters taken up by artists. The value of these paintings exists not so much in their status as art historical documents, but in what they reveal about the much wider context of Spain’s self-perception at the time, and subsequently. As the country crumbled around them, artists sought to escape into a heroic past much of which was in fact created and mythologized by themselves and other cultural players. While the Orientalist interests of foreign artists in Spain and foreign collectors focussed on the Alhambra and the Kingdom of Granada, such subjects were of little concern to Spanish painters during this period. Instead, they depicted incidents that were aggressively Catholic and Hispanic, creating an image of a uniform and monoglot Spain that neither represented the true situation in Spain, nor appealed to international audiences.

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