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José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945)

Santander Tavern

ca. 1944-1945


Oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm


Signed at the lower left corner “J. Solana”

Although not born in Santander, Solana always felt closely identified with that city. The fire that devastated it in 1941 plunged him into a profound state of sadness and nostalgia. He told his family that he longed to see the city and its port again and to paint the seafarers for whom he felt such admiration.

This longing to be back in Santander is evident in Santander Tavern, one of the artist’s last works. Here he paints a place and characters that he had depicted many years before in a large drawing, an etching and the painting Sailors at the Door of a Tavern of around 1930-33, although in the present work he chose an interior setting.

This canvas was undoubtedly painted in Solana’s studio in Madrid under artificial light. The artist depicts the objects and figures from memory, including the fishermen whom he had seen in the past on the quaysides of the Small Port at Santander where Solana loved to spend the early evening watching the arrival of the boats and the fishermen at work.

Making use of a chromatic range of greens and warm earth tones and a muted type of light, Solana depicts three robust, powerful mariners whose faces convey a sense of tranquility and nobility, expressive of a world that the artist so profoundly admired.

The artist does not focus here on individualising the figures. Rather, his intention is to convey the time of day - indicated by the clock in the background – when the fishermen returned home from their labours at sea, taking a rest from work with the tools of their trade on the ground, smoking and enjoying a drink while they relate the day’s events in a scene so often repeated in the harbour at Santander.

María José Salazar