Saturday, 27 March 2010

52. Ramiro Arrue - his vision of the Pays Basque.

27th March 2010. Visitors to the Pays Basque with an eye for the graphic arts will soon become aware of the stylistic influence exerted on the self image of the region by the celebrated Basque artist Ramiro Arrue (right) of Spanish nationality.

More than anyone else that I'm aware of, his paintings define the region and capture the essence of the Basque identity. His work is deceptively simple and it portrays the rural Basque people at work and at play.

The Basques have an especially intense relationship with their houses, their farms and their land. This is perhaps best illustrated by a poem - My Father's House - by Gabriel Aresti, 1963 (translated from the original Basque):

I shall defend the house of my father.
Against wolves, against drought, against usury, against the Justice,
I shall defend the house of my father.
I shall lose cattle, orchards and pinewoods;
I shall lose interests, income and dividends,
But I shall defend the house of my father.
They will take away my weapons and with my hands
I shall defend the house of my father;
They will cut off my hands and with my arms
I shall defend the house of my father;
They will leave me without arms, without shoulders and without breasts,
And with my soul I shall defend the house of my father.
I shall die, my soul will be lost, my descendants will be lost,
But the house of my father will remain standing.

(Reading the above lines explains the passion the Basques feel for their houses and the fierce local resistance here to the southern extension of the special track for the TGV which is planned to pass through the Pays Basque - that will necessitate the demolition of ~140 Basque houses.)

Born May 20, 1892 in Bilbao, Ramiro Arrue studied in Paris and associated with Picasso, Modigliani and Cocteau. He settled in St Jean de Luz in 1917 where he remained for the rest of his adult life. Despite choosing to live in France, he retained his Spanish nationality and as a result was arrested together with other Spanish Basques in 1943 and imprisoned in the fortress at St Jean Pied de Port.

He resumed painting in 1945 and he found his main inspiration for landscapes, portraits, and everyday scenes. His style is figurative, featuring simple, even austere, lines with an almost monumental quality and muted colour harmonies. The academic Hélène Saule-Sorbé wrote: "The colours of Ramiro Arrue's brush are a trilogy: green, white, red. The permanence of heraldry, a sign of belonging, the palette of a country of green hills, of bright white houses whose roofs and woodwork is red".

He died alone in penury in St Jean de Luz on 1 April 1971.

A prolific artist, we see his work regularly surfacing at a gallery in St Jean de Luz but they command high prices.

Here's the real thing:


Daan said...

Nice post! I imagine you may be interested in French painter Tobeen, not a Basque, but he strongly identified with anything Basque. Have a look here:

Pipérade said...

Thanks Daan - and thanks for the tip about Tobeen. His is a name that's new to me. Always interested in art that depicts the Pays Basque and the Basques. Galleries here are starting to feature more and more works by artists who portray the Pays Basque in the style of Ramiro Arrue - without quite getting it right though (IMHO!). From a quick look at the few examples of Tobeen's work that's out there on the net, I'd say he pushes Arrue v close. Thanks again.