Plunged into crisis, the ideas of the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century -including proposals of its own such as Ultraísmo- Spanish criticism faces the first years of the Twenties with the need for a renovation which would involve the insertion of Madrid into the international art scene. The Iberian Artists’ Society was born in late 1924 with the purpose of both renewing art as well as its relationship with the public, because, as highlighted by the signatories in the first Manifesto (Alfar, September 1924): "the horizon of artistic activity is yet to be configured. The sole possible referee is an informed public." In addition to exhibitions, conferences and many specialised magazines, they participated in the revival of Spanish art at a time when one of the main objectives is the transformation of Spanish political cultural defined under the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923 - 1931)
The Exposition of the Iberian Artists’ Society (Palacio de Exposiciones at El Retiro, Madrid), inaugurated on May 28, 1925, makes up the public presentation of this group, where their interests and their impending destiny are put on display. Jaime Brihuega (curator of the exhibition together with Concha Lomba) notes that with it "something which has just finished begins" and no wonder. Artists such as Francisco Bores, Benjamín Palencia and even Salvador Dalí leave for Paris months later. This exhibition is not intended to be an archaeological reconstruction of this reference in the history of Spanish art, but it brings up an artistic, historic and aesthetic revision. This approach, which allows for an analysis of debates in greater depth, favours, as is the assumption (and identification) of a "return to order" such as the language of renovation and of new art that society supports.
The artist Rafael Barradas is the undisputed star of the show because of his pioneering role in the pictorial renewal in Madrid. Brihuega notes that the notable absences in the 1925 exhibition (Daniel Vázquez Díaz, Joaquim Sunyer, and the scarce presence of Catalan artists) is the result of theoretical and aesthetic controversies that come undone during its planning. The collected works testify to a range of languages which are dominated by the cubist and post-cubist heritage from Paul Cezanne, as can be seen in the work of Palencía and Santiago Pelegrín. In addition, traditional realism is present in the work of Valentín Zubiaurre and Aurelio Arteta, while Juan Gris and especially the grammatical plurality of Pablo Picasso are evident in the work of Moreno Villa.
This exhibition acknowledges the influence of contemporary currents such as the New Objectivity present in Roberto Fernández Balbuena’s work and the Italian Novencento in Bores’. Without being a stylistically homogeneous group, the general tendency is an inclination towards a refined traditional figurative style. Along with magazines, essential to the creation of the Iberian Artists’ Society spirit, are the theoretical work and debates led by prominent intellectuals and critics of the time: Eugenio d'Ors, Juan de la Encina, Guillermo de Torre and José Ortega y Gasset.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (January 22 - April 14, 1996)