Versolaris (Basque Verse Composers)

Valentín Zubiaurre

Madrid, Spain, 1879 - 1963
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    165 x 237 cm
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  • Entry date: 
  • Observations: 
    Entry date: 1988 (from the redistribution of the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo [MEAC] collection)
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To date, there have not been very many in-depth studies of the work of Valentín Zubiaurre. However, Kosme de Barañano offers a very accurate stylistic description of the Basque painter’s creations: “Valentín Zubiaurre’s paintings seduce with their stable composition, that Byzantine monotony which contrasts with the vitality of modern painting (the avant-gardes of the early part of the century). […] He doesn’t set out to follow on from the rupture represented by the Fauves or Cubism. Instead he composes icons of the lost village (Basque or Segovian), like devotional paintings of ordinary people elevated to noble images. Zubiaurre creates a naturalism which is lost in the twentieth century, a journey eastward within a Basque or Castilian village. He indefinitely multiplies these icons from a time that is being lost to the rise of modernity.” In Versolaris (Basque Verse Composers, 1913) – or Bertsolaris, from the Basque – we can see the stylistic and conceptual approach noted by Barañano. Laid out in a frieze-like composition, the painting is a typical rural scene from the Basque Country, in which the figures appear like cut-outs against a peculiar landscape, a half symbolic and half accurate reflection of reality. Traditionally, the Basque bertsolaris demonstrated sharpness and wit in their recited verses, improvising their creations, while also following a set of rules governing the metre. In the nineteenth century, the activity of the bertsolaris reached a great peak. Although the leading figures were men, women had long taken part in this form of folk entertainment; it appears that female participation dated back to at least the fifteenth century. It must have been significant, as the 1452 regional law known as the Fuero de Vizcaya went so far as to prohibit “public singing and reciting by women”. Despite this, women must have continued to have a significant involvement, as demonstrated by the painting in question.

Paloma Esteban Leal