Lagar was the creator of Planism, the first of many artistic styles that emerged in the Spanish avant-garde of the early 20th century. The Port of Bilbao is one of the most significant examples of this short-lived movement (it became known in 1915 and disappeared in 1920) that combined elements taken from Fauvism, Futurism and Cubism that Lagar had assimilated in Paris between 1911 and 1914. The picture captures elements that allude to the characteristic industrial landscape of Bilbao—the bow of a ship, factories with smoking chimneys, bridges, working-class houses—only partially presented to the viewer.
The compositional space is organised in large planes of pure colour and in spite of its two-dimensional nature, the painter has endeavoured to highlight the geometric volumes of the objects. This fragmented vision of the city and the inclusion of signs with the words Bilbao and Nervión, not to mention the presence of propellers, wheels and the bow of a ship, relate the work to the dynamism of Futurism and Orphism.
The son of a cabinetmaker, Lagar began his artistic career as a sculptor. He became acquainted with Modigliani (who portrayed him on two occasions), Derain and Metzinger, and developed much of his work in France, where he settled permanently in 1919. Landscapes, still lifes and above all scenes from the world of the circus, highly influenced by those of Picasso, constitute the most characteristic features of his production that in the 1920s returned to a classical representational style. [M.A.]
Novecentismo y Vanguardia, 1910-1936 : en la colección del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2009.
Isabel García García. Celso Lagar. Madrid : Fundación Mapfre, 2010.
Generación del 14 : ciencia y modernidad. [Cat. exp.]. Madrid : Biblioteca Nacional de España ; Sociedad Estatal de Acción Cultural, 2014.
Miriam Alzuri. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 170, n.º 121, ad vocem.