Sin título (Untitled)

José Caballero

Huelva, Spain, 1913 - Madrid, Spain, 1991
  • Date: 
    1937 (December)
  • Technique: 
    Gouache on cardboard
  • Dimensions: 
    38,7 x 33 cm
  • Category: 
    Work on paper, Drawing
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 

The Falangist publication Vértice ran from the years 1937 to 1946. It published a total of 83 issues, as well as several supplements and special issues. Its large format and luxurious quality – with colour drawings, photogravure prints, maps and illustrations – were intended to provide a propagandistic image for the side that would come to be victorious in the Spanish war. In the words of Jaime Brihuega, “In July 1936, Caballero was in Huelva, which would soon fall into rebel hands. Caballero’s friendships and activity would cause him to be looked on with suspicion […] [and] the price he had to pay was collaborating with fascist publications. He drew for the Falangist magazine Vértice and for the collected book Laureados de España (Spanish Prize-Winners). The works he signed are accompanied by those of D’Ors, Cela, Alfaro, de la Serna, Samuel Ros, Teodoro Delgado, Laín Entralgo, Sáez de Tejada, Neville, Montes, Cunqueiro, Michelena, Correa Calderón, Viladomat and many others. Some acted out of conviction, others out of opportunism and others for survival. But the drama facing Caballero is that of a bloody contradiction. However, it is much more ironic that, paradoxically, Spanish fascism, which would never succeed in orchestrating a cohesive representative culture, began by expressing itself through images loaded with the most revelatory Surrealism.” In fact, the Surrealist artistic code inspired every one of the four illustrations the Huelva painter produced for Vértice in 1937 and 1938, especially this Soldado roto (Broken Soldier), which was the first cover designed by José Caballero for the Falangist magazine. The dreamlike atmosphere is created by the accumulation of apparently unrelated subjects and objects. Far from exalting the future victors in the conflict, Caballero composed a scene with a desolate beach in the background, a symbol of the wartime situation in Spain. In the foreground, a soldier with a broken helmet faces a monumental angel, a recreation of the ones the painter had drawn to illustrate Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, by Federico García Lorca. Continuing with the symbolic elements, death is represented by several black-headed pins piercing a piece of bone with holes in it, placed next to a large snail. According to a preliminary sketch, Caballero would have titled this composition Ha ganado el ángel (The Angel Has Won), a caption which demonstrated the painter’s opposition. It was replaced by the more neutral Número extraordinario (Special Issue), which appears on the ribbon at the bottom of the piece.

Paloma Esteban Leal