Eibar, Gipuzkoa, 1870-Madrid, 1945
Oil on canvas, 152 x 195.5 cm
Donated by Ramón de la Sota y Llano in 1919
Portrait of the Countess Mathieu de Noailles depicts Anna Elisabeth de Brancovan, a Parisian poetess of Greek and Romanian origin. Heavy curtains serve as a frame for the portrait, emphasizing the theatrical nature of the portrait. Even so, Zuloaga opens the painting up to a backdrop of clouds, itself inspired by El Greco’s backgrounds, as a way of concentrating our interest on the sensual figure of the sitter. In the lower right corner, the artist gifts us a small still-life consisting of a table with books, evoking the Countess’s devotion to literature, a necklace of pearls—a sign of passion—and a broad vase full of roses, symbol of love: both a brief symbolic compendium of the Countess’s personality and an updating of the Spanish baroque theme of the vanitas. Despite being hailed by international art critics of the early 20th century as one of the finest painters of the time, in Spain Zuloaga was accused of exalting the country’s perceived backwardness. His training, far from the academic world, the influence of the intellectual circles in Paris and his association with Spain’s highly critical "Generation of "98" literary movement, led him to take popular culture and Spanish 17th century painting and Goya as his references. These influences imbued his works with a remarkable expressiveness and powerful psychological insight, which, together with the Romantic vision and his undeniable skills as a painter, were the essential factors in Zuloaga’s subsequent output. [J.N.G.]
Independently of its permanent collection, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum regularly organises temporary exhibition programmes.
Please consult the exhibition calendar for more information about the museum's latest proposals.
Cristóbal Balenciaga (Guetaria, Guipúzcoa, 1895–Valencia, 1972) is one of the most important designers in fashion history. He was born in the small coastal town of Guetaria, in the province of Guipúzcoa, where his mother worked as a seamstress. At the tender age of 13, Balenciaga copied a dress belonging to the Marquesa (Marchioness) of Casa Torres. After such a precocious start, the Marquesa became his patron and sent him to Paris to train in haute couture.
En 1913 he opened his own studio in San Sebastian, which was at the time one of the aristocracy’s favourite holiday resorts. The success of his creations, instantly recognizable by the geometric beauty of their cut, his profound understanding of the fabrics he used and the exquisite harmony of his colour ranges helped him to perfect his craft and soon encouraged him to open boutiques in Barcelona and Madrid. This early experience in dressmaking left an indelible mark on his idea of couture, to be seen clearly in the superb cut that characterizes his creations and the masterly handling of the quality of the finest fabrics.
In 1937 he decided it was time to step into the international fashion arena, which he did by opening a boutique for haute couture at number 10 on Paris’s chic avenue George V. Over three decades in the capital of the fashion world, Balenciaga reigned supreme as the ultimate benchmark in haute couture; every collection came replete with innovations as he continued on an obsessive search for a feminine ideal of perfection and elegance. In Paris he also forged the legend of himself as the ultimate hermetic male who shunned high-powered social events. This was his way of drawing attention to himself and earning the admiration of international fashion critics and the loyalty of a clientele of high-society women from Europe and the United States. Balenciaga’s undisputed predominance lasted until May 1968, when he closed all his salons, as prêt-à-porter took the fashion world by storm.
Balenciaga. Designing the limits contains 35 examples of haute couture from the collections of the Basque regional government, the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation, and two private collections in the Basque Country and Madrid. The exhibition is an exceptional staging divided into seven different ambiences, taking visitors on a fascinating itinerary of the creations of one of the greatest fashion designers to have graced the golden age of haute couture.
Babeslea • Patrocinador • Sponsor
04|30|14 • 08|25|14
05|16|14 • 09|01|14
06|10|14 • 09|15|14
10|07|14 • 01|19|15
THE GUEST WORK
04|09|14 • 06|30|14
02|18|14 • 05|19|14
01|24|14 • 04|28|14