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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Greatest of the baroque sculptors


Conflict between the baroque and neo-classic styles in architecture and sculpture.]

The fine arts experienced the same influences and were the subject of the same conflicts as occurred in the field of polite literature. At the outset the baroque style in an even more exaggerated form than in the preceding era was the principal basis of architecture. This was vanquished by the classical reaction, born in Italy, and coming to Spain by way of France. The new art, called neo-classic, or pseudo-classic, endeavored to return to Roman and what were considered Greek elements, interpreting them with an artificial and academic correctness which was entirely lacking in sentiment and warmth. The Academy of Fine Arts (_Bellas Artes de San Fernando_), established in the reign of Ferdinand VI, became the stronghold of the neo-classic school, and was able to make its views prevail, since it was the arbiter as to the style of public buildings and the dispenser of licenses to engage in the profession of architecture. The museum of the Prado, Madrid, the work of Juan Villanueva, may be taken as an example of the neo-classic edifices. In sculpture the traditional use of painted wood remained a dominant factor throughout most of the century, although there were evidences presaging its abandonment. While some small figures representing popular types were made, the majority of the works of statuary were for the church, which was by far the most important customer of

the sculptors. Some of the most notable results were those obtained in the groups for use in the _pasos_, or floats, carried in the processions of Holy Week. Especially meritorious were those of Salcillo, greatest of the baroque sculptors. The profuse ornamentation of baroque art helped to cause a continuance of the use of stone in sculpture, since it was difficult, with wood, to procure the effects of foliage. The baroque was soon swept away, however, in favor of the neo-classic style, of which ?lvarez was the most distinguished exponent. The same influences, in both architecture and sculpture, operated in the Americas as in Spain. Both arts prospered more than they had in the past.

[Sidenote: Mediocrity of Spanish painting in this era.]

[Sidenote: Greatness of Goya.]

At the close of the seventeenth century Spanish painting had fallen away, until nothing of consequence was being done. A revival commenced with the accession of Philip V, but the results were not great. The entire era was filled with the dispute between French and Italian influences. In the reign of Charles III the German painter Mengs, who represented a kind of eclecticism which endeavored to combine the virtues of the masters in the various Italian schools of the great era, became the idol of Spanish artists and the arbiter of the Academy. No Spaniard, unless possibly Bayeu and Men?ndez, is even worthy of mention,--with one glorious exception. Into an age of painting which had sunk

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