Work:Woman from Granada, by Santiago Rusiñol
Technique: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:200 x 87 cm
Collection: Former collection of Santiago Rusiñol. Museu Cau Ferrat
Inventory no.: 32,045
Description and historical background
The gypsy woman is one of Santiago Rusiñol’s most important paintings. She stands, in profile, in a sombre, serious pose, against a white wall with a window which opens on to a backdrop of plants and trees which draws our eye to the sharp silhouette of a row of cypress trees. She has a faraway gaze, as if in a state of reverie.
The painting has several names, including the Gitana del Albaycín (Gypsy Woman from the Albaycín), but it is most often referred to as the Granadina (Woman from Granada). Both of these emphasise the origins of the model who was so unusual and different to the ones who had posed for Rusiñol until then. We don’t know her real name, but we do know her family background: she was a relative of Chorrohumo (or Chorrojumo), an individual who used to hang around the Alhambra on the look-out for painters with a calling card that extolled his merits: “Mariano Fernández Príncipe de los Gitanos. Modelo de Fortuny” (Mariano Fernandez Prince of Gypsies. Model for Fortuny). The Granadina was one of the first works Rusiñol painted on his second trip to Granada, where he arrived in October 1895, accompanied by the painters Arcadi Mas i Fondevila, who had been there a few years earlier, Macari Oller i Codoñet, and Miquel Utrillo.
Rusiñol began the painting shortly after he had arrived in the city of the Alhambra, and worked on it at the same time as his first garden painting, which, in all certainty, was the Xiprers vells (Old Cypress Trees) at the old Convent de la Victòria. He wrote to the art critic Raimon Casellas, “I’ve started work. I’m painting gardens with romantic pavilions and a life-size portrait of a gypsy girl”. He also told another very close friend, the sculptor Enric Clarasó: “I’ve started work on some gardens and a large-scale figure of a gypsy girl”.
As he walked around the grounds of the Alhambra, painted beneath the arcades in the Courtyard of the Myrtles, and sketched different places in the Generalife, Rusiñol made notes of his impressions and transcribed them in the series Cartas de Andalucía (Letters from Andalusia):nine chronicles that he published in La Vanguardia, with illustrations by Mas i Fondevila, Oller, and Utrillo. Just as the series Desde el Molino (From the Windmill) had prepared the Barcelona public for the modern paintings that he and Ramon Casas had brought from Paris, the Cartas de Andalucía were the literary portrayal of the profound and lasting impression which the Alhambra, the Generalife, the gypsy girls and gardens had left on the artist’s spirit and literary and artistic works. The chapter entitled “El barrio de los gitanos” (The Gypsy Quarter) describes the artists’ visit to Sacromonte accompanied by the Prince of the Gypsies, who showed them his way of life. A couple living in one of the caves said that they were related to their curious guide; the wife, who was “judiciously dark skinned” is the Granadina. Miquel Utrillo bears witness to this in his drawing that accompanies Rusiñol’s account and, years later, when he described the works in the Museu del Cau Ferrat: “Here you can see a gypsy girl from Granada; she is the girl Rusiñol recalled when he talked about buying the donkey in Granada”. Rusiñol also made an impromptu drawing of her, on Sacromonte, entitled Gitana sentada junto a una chumbera (Gypsy Woman Sitting by a Prickly Pear Tree) which is on display at Cau Ferrat (inv. no. 30,672). Apart from the drawings on popular themes that Rusiñol produced during his travels in 1895-96 and 1898, the Granadina is the only gypsy woman he painted.
The Granadina is an unusual figure, both in terms of Rusiñol’s body of work and the way he approaches one of the clichés of genre painting. It isn’t exactly a portrait but more a state of mind. The protagonist is quite different to the female figures of his Paris interiors. Her outfit wouldn’t look out of place in the pictures depicting the local customs of Granada; however, her pose and the background bear no resemblance to other noteworthy precursors of the genre, such as the delightful Gitanilla bailando en el jardín (Gypsy Girl Dancing in the Garden, oil, 1870-1872), by Marià Fortuny, and even less so to the whirlwind of energy personified by the central figure in John Singer Sargent’s El jaleo (oil, 1879). Rusiñol’s Granadina shows how the artist has overcome the challenge of achieving the perfect balance between the figure and the landscape by showing the serenity of the female model as well as the background of walls and gardens enclosing the silhouetted row of dark cypress trees.
It is a painting of farewell and discovery. The white garden wall and interior walls which frame the gardens in the background is the final version of the white gallery paintings of Sitges. The sudden appearance of ivy, groves and cypresses marks the beginning of a long period in Rusinyol’s work that was described as being too reductionist, such as the period of the garden paintings.
Nameless yet real, and a symbol of the experiences and impressions of his second trip to the city of the Alhambra, Rusiñol hung the Granadina on the walls of Cau Ferrat and never wanted to part with it.
50th Anniversary of Santiago Rusiñol’s Death. Aranjuez, Girona, Barcelona, 1981
50th Anniversary of Santiago Rusiñol’s Death. Sitges 1981.
The Spirit Gardens of Santiago Rusiñol. Sabadell, Salamanca, Palma de Mallorca, Girona, 1999.
Several authors. Els jardins de l’ànima de Santiago Rusiñol. Girona, Fundació Caixa de Girona, 1999. Articles by Margarida Casacuberta, Xavier Antic, Josep Gordi i Serrat, Vinyet Panyella, Marina Gustà.
Coll i Mirabent, Isabel. Rusiñol. Vilafranca del Penedés. Museu de Vilafranca, 1990. Includes correspondence with Víctor Balaguer and Enric Clarasó.
Laplana, Josep de C. Santiago Rusiñol. El pintor, l’home de Barcelona. Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 1995. (Biblioteca Abat Oliba; 151).
Panyella, Vinyet. “Andalucía vista por un catalán. Santiago Rusiñol en Andalucía (1887-1922).” Historiar, no. 4 (1.2000), pp. 130-142.
Panyella, Vinyet. Paisatges i escenaris de Santiago Rusiñol (Sitges, París, Granada). Barcelona. Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat: Curial, 2000. Textos i estudis de cultural catalana; 75.
Rusiñol, Santiago. Impresiones de arte Barcelona, La Vanguardia, 1897.
Sánchez Rodrigo, Lourdes: “Santiago Rusiñol a Granada”. Revista a Catalunya, no. 77 (September 1993), pp. 86-95.
Utrillo, Miquel. Història anecdòtica del Cau Ferrat. Foreword by Francesc Fontbona. Sitges: Grup d’Estudis Sitgetans, 1989. (Estudis Sitgetans, 18).
Author of the file: Vinyet Panyella i Balcells