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10|11|17 New acquisition for the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

A work of enormous historical and documentary importance by the Bilbao-born painter Aurelio Arteta has been acquired by the Basque Government for the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


Bilbao, 10 November 2017. The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has enriched its collection with the acquisition of the original design by the Bilbao painter Aurelio Arteta (Bilbao, 1879 - Mexico City, 1940) for the poster which the newspaper Euzkadi commissioned for its launch in February 1913. Arteta's drawing, Irakurri-Léase 'Euzkadi' [Read 'Euzkadi'] created in 1912, is of great historical importance as it documents the poster, which is now only known from photographs of the time as no copy seems to have survived.

The preparatory drawing, in charcoal, gouache, watercolour and pastel on paper backed onto cloth and mounted on a stretcher, enters the museum's collection having been acquired for it by the Department of Culture of the Basque Government. Arteta is extremely well represented in the museum's collection with a total of 39 works: 26 paintings, 4 drawings, 2 heraldic shields for posters, a preliminary sketch and 2 posters belonging to the museum; and 3 paintings and 1 drawing on deposit. These works include two posters that demonstrate the artist's interest in that field of art, one for the Library of the Amigos del País and the other for the San Sebastián boat races. Both are colour lithographs based on designs by Arteta produced in the early decades of the century.

The new acquisition dates from the artist's initial phase when, having completed his training in Paris and Rome, he returned to his native city to establish his career as a painter. The drawing has been in a Basque private collection since prior to 1936, before which the owners were associated with the newspaper itself. This acquisition coincides with the 80th anniversary of the closure of Euzkadi.


Read 'Euzkadi', 1912

Arteta produced this preliminary drawing, which is not signed or dated, for the poster commissioned by the nationalist newspaper Euzkadi (1913-37) to promote its launch in February 1913. The year before, when the Basque Nationalist Party commissioned the poster for the new publication, Arteta was working on the decorative cycle for the residence of the Marchioness of Zuya in Murgia (Álava). One of the most important of his career, it consists of eight canvases on the theme of La Romería [The Country Pilgrimage]. One canvas from the series, Waiting for the Pilgrimage (Diputación Foral de Bizkaia), includes a standing figure with his left hand resting on a tree trunk whose clothes and pose could have provided the starting point for this image.

No copy of the poster, which was probably a lithograph, has survived to the present day and it is only known from reproductions published in the press in 1913. These show how Arteta's original design, which has now entered the museum, was modified in some places by the lithographer. Among the changes are the youth's pose, which became more dynamic and epic in feel, and the blanket that covered his right arm and shoulder in the original, which was modified to wave in the wind or with the movement of the figure, emphasising the idea that he is announcing his message from the top of a watch tower on a mountain top. The landscape background was also simplified so that it became two large areas of colour against which the figure of this herald or town crier is outlined as he urges us to read the new newspaper.

Other significant changes made between the initial design and the final composition include the disappearance of the makila [typical Basque staff] that the figure is holding in his left hand and the change to the location of the heraldic shield with the motto "Jaungoikua eta Lagi Zarrak", one of the newspaper's identifying emblems which appeared on its masthead and which is located on the left in the preliminary sketch but on the right in the poster.

Another change is to the typography of the motto Read 'Euzkadi', located at the upper right corner: Arteta's is based on popular Basque tradition (although interestingly it is not the Gothic type that Javier de Gortazar used for his masthead design) while in the poster it is more neutral in style.

Two versions of the poster are known. One is relatively close to Arteta's original, printed in 1913 and now only known from a reproduction in the magazine Novedades of January 1913. The other, which is closer to the final poster, dates from around 1930 and is by José María Uribarren (1913-2008). There is an example of the latter in the Fundación Sabino Arana and another in the Fundación Labayru.


Aurelio Arteta (Bilbao, 1879 - Mexico City, 1940)
Irakurri-Léase 'Euzkadi' [Read 'Euzkadi'] (1912)
Charcoal, gouache, watercolour and pastel on paper backed onto cloth and mounted on a stretcher. 128.8 x 118 cm