After all the overfall that involved Érase una vez Córdoba and myself with the 140 anniversary of Julio Romero de Torres and with the tranquility of a well done completed work, the Muses visited me to remember this popular and little-known artist, all at the same time.
Julio Romero has been marked by a regional folk and kitsch character practically since he died in May 1930. His figure has been used and reinterpreted so many times in our country throughout the XXth century, spawning a feeling of disdain in art historians who wanted to approach his paintings, perhaps because most of his works evoke an “Andalusism” (often misinterpreted as something old-fashioned and “shabby”), what has ended up, unfortunately, as his sign: We blame the bills of hundred pesetas, we blame the use and abuse in the advertisings during the Franco regime. The thing is that like all human being, Julio Romero de Torres was much more than the coplas that sung about him.
Jaime Brihuega properly well condenses this fact in three words: “Romerian visual poetics”. A cocktail generated in the spirit of Julio with series of previous and contemporary pictorial movements, philosophical and literary movements, travels, experiences, professional colleagues, books, his home (the Museum of Fine Arts), hobbies (flamenco, music , etc.), his wife, etc. When interpreting his work, all of this has triggered an opposite effect on those people who approached it, getting a superficial and a vain vision and retaining only not the meaning but the image, which in the case of the paintings of Romero de Torres cannot be separated.
This facet of the cordovan painter, ironically obviated or unknown, is what gives sense him meaning as an artist. The fundamental elements of his paintings have always been transmuted and have not been studied in depth until the XXth century last decades.
As discussed above, Julio Romero de Torres lived marked by a lot of experiences and elements which left signs in his painting: The statism of his figures and the backgrounds with “sfumatos” tell us about his admiration to Leonardo da Vinci, the representation of simple images with hidden meanings brings us to the influence of symbolism or his admiration of modernity and strong identity of Catalan Modernism, reflected in his early works by imitating these styles. These are elements that bring us to his life and obviously his paintings.
Therefore, when we talk about Julio Romero de Torres we have to refer to him as an author who broke up with all his postmortem labels. He broke away with any traditional thing already done in painting and showed a new form of Art, he used simple elements to represent the aspirations and the most hidden desires of the man.
You have, pretty close, in Barcelona, one of his misunderstood works: Altarpiece of Love, rejected in 1910 by the Nationl Exhibition in Madrid and, conversely, first medal on the Barcelona Exhibition, one year later (today you can enjoy this painting in the National Museum of Art of Catalonia in Barcelona). The Madrilenian jury threw up its hands to, while that one from Barcelona praised this artwork (they were more “modern”). Although the agitation is understandable, who would represent an Annunciation with a naked Virgin and a female angel?
Carmelo Casaño, on his “Critical symbolism of Julio Romero de Torres”, tells us that this painting makea reference to the different types of love, all framed as an altarpiece (an ironic frame): The upper laterals are personifications of married love, while the naked woman below is a representation of the heathen love (the lust) and is flanked by two women symbolizing the mystical love: A nun and a blessed. Julio Romero collected the ways of life that a woman could take in his time, and the labels for which society could dismiss her (a good wife, a devoted nun or a simple “courtesan”). Everything was represented by the simple and sensual form of the woman.This is just one example of what entails studying an artwork of this painter, although we could continue with all of his work.
You have several ways to know the life and work of Julio Romero.If you want as fully as possible to do it, Érase una vez Córdoba offers the guided tour La Córdoba de Julio Romero de Torres to those who want to know what is behind of “El pintor de la mujer morena” (“the painter of the brunnete woman”).
Translated by Paola López Colom
Images of paintings by Julio Romero de Torres. Wikimedia Commons. * Larger image: Views of JRT at Sojo bar, Cordoba. Activity carried on the anniversary of the artist