Page 12, 9th December 1938

9th December 1938
Page 12
Page 12, 9th December 1938 — Art

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Locations: Bilbao


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ZULGAGA has painted more than 500 pictures in his long career. Many of them are portraits. These are magnificent, but show a certain, and I think inevitable, reserve, that is absent when he is painting for himself, with before him a model that he has chosen. Then, especially, one can recognise the Goya spirit. Irony, and fatalism, alternate with the love for the hidden things of the most inaccessible corners of Spain. He has depicted the weirdness of the " Brujas " (old women who still, in certain remote villages, practise witch-craft) and the nostalgia and superstition of the gitans (Spanish branch of the gypsies), whose strange language he speaks, and whose friend he is.

He knows this nomadic people better, perhaps, than any other non-gitan, and feels a sympathy for them that they recognise with gratitude. He is one of the rare individuals to have been admitted to some of their secret, often pagan ceremonies.

ZULOAGA is passionately attached to his country, and since the beginning of the Civil War has given the fruits of his work to such charitable and patriotic organizations as Auxillo Social (Social Assistance), and the war hospitals. He received, the other day, the highest Spanish distinction, the Imperial Order of the Red Arrows.

He was with his family at Zumaya when the hostilities broke out, and lived through the horrors of the Red occupation until the Nationalist forces arrived, towards the end of September, 1936.

Thinking they would be in greater safety from Red plunderers than in his house, he had put certain things of value in a safe in a Bilbao bank, and among them a small painting of El Greco, on wood. But he was to regret this act later when it was known that the Reds had broken into the banks. However, after the conquest of Bilbao he went to inquire, and was shown an inventory drawn up by the Reds in an illiterate hand-writing of what his safe contained. At the end of the list were marked the words: "Piece of painted wood." On opening the safe he found that money and papers had disappeard, everything, in fact, excepting the "piece of painted wood." It was the El Greco, that the vandals, ignorant of its value, had left behind.


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