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Ortiz Echagüe

13 july, 1999 - 13 september, 1999 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 3, Paper Gallery
Ortiz Echagüe. Lagarteranas, 1925. Photography. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid
Ortiz Echagüe. Lagarteranas, 1925. Photography. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

José Ortiz Echagüe (Guadalajara, 1886 - Madrid, 1980) stands out in the national art scene as a pioneer in pigmentation techniques for photography and, above all, for putting these techniques -characteristic to pictorial photography- to the service of ethnography. This comes at a time when, with the burden of the crisis of 1898, the concept of nation is being reconstructed from a political and philosophical viewpoint, by looking at history and tradition, the invariants. His work, published mainly as photo albums from the Thirties -España, tipos y trajes (1933); España, pueblos y paisajes (1939); España mística (1943); España, castillos y alcázares (1956)- make up the most important documentary body on a historical legacy such as historical clothing, religious events (weddings, funerals, Easter) and other traditional events. The photographs gathered in this exhibition are mostly from the Ortiz Echagüe Legacy, University of Navarra and all have been made using the carbon Fresson printing process, except two, which have used the bromoil process. The selection covers a long and consistent career, from those images with family members and friendly events conforming with European pictorialism: Sermón en la aldea (1909), Taller de costura (1905), Retrato de mi esposa I (1916); or Danza al viento (1912); until some of his later landscapes, such as Siroco en el Sahara (1964), he abandons the practice of photography in 1968.

The collection of photographs chosen for this exhibition offers the timeless image of Spain, where characters are dressed in work or festive dress, North Africans, landscapes or ruined castles are identified with perennial value. This is achieved with both technique and style: because of the prominent luminous contrasts that turn the characters into sculptures. This is evident in his numerous portraits of people, especially in the series of monks, where the use of iconography and compositions influenced by the Baroque is apparent, such as in the case of the Monje blanco, novicio del Cister (1945) and Monje cartujo (c. 1945), which are modelled off San Bruno (c. 1635) by Manuel Pereira and the paintings of Francisco de Zurbarán.

Motivated by a desire to capture it before it disappears, the reason and reality of the person and popular costume, Ortiz Echagüe creates "a unique work, articulated conceptually and technically developed around the idea of documenting a Spain that was in the process of vanishing", as indicated by Rafael Levenfeld and Valentín Vallhonrat, curators of the exhibition. Echagüe’s photographs range throughout the whole Peninsula and the north of Africa, systematising the peculiarities and differences of the nation from their clothes (especially those of women, to provide greater richness and variety) and landscapes.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Legado Ortiz Echagüe, Universidad de Navarra, Fundación Universitaria de Navarra in collaboration with Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,
Curatorship: 
Rafael Levenfeld y Valentín Vallhonrat
Exhibition Tour: 

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (July 23 - October 4, 1998); Hôtel de Sully, Paris (January 15 - March 21, 1999); Sala de Armas de la Ciudadela, Pamplona (March 30 - May 2, 1999); Palacio del Infantado, Guadalajara; Sala Amós Salvador, Logroño

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