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Herd of Bulls by a River below a Castle
Pérez Villaamil y Duguet, Genaro
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Pérez Villaamil y Duguet, Genaro

El Ferrol, La Coruña (Spain), 1807 - Madrid (Spain), 1854

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Herd of Bulls by a River below a Castle

1837. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

A herd of bulls graze beside the backwaters of a quiet river, closely watched by the herdsmen resting on the bank. Farther back, two barges filled with local men prepare to cross the river. The closer of the two is being loaded with sacks of merchandise -possible contraband- carried by two donkeys near a ruined estate. A hill behind the lush woods that border the river is topped by an imposing fortress accessible via a steep stairway ending at an enormous arched entrance. This fort is filled with buildings, towers and battlements that mark its monumental silhouette against a cloudy sky whose haze blurs the contours of the mountainous horizon in the background.

With its straightforward appearance, this serenely balanced painting sums up Genaro Pérez Villaamil’s essential qualities as the quintessential Spanish Romantic landscape painter. He was directly influenced by the English master, David Roberts (1796-1864), whom he met on one of the latter’s visits to Spain, and it was Roberts who sparked his taste for the fantastic and grandiose interpretation of monumental buildings, an evocative Romanic attraction to Medieval ruins, the poetic intensity of light effects, and the powerful and sometimes gripping interpretation of natural elements. These were the basis for the new Romantic vision of landscapes that he brought to Spain at a time when it was already very much in vogue throughout Europe. Moreover, at that time, Europe was also gripped by an irresistible attraction to the exoticism of the espagnolade. In fact, the monumental and historic remains of Spain’s past and the picturesque nature of its customs attracted numerous European artists and traveling writers, whose works emphasized the country’s most picturesque and folkloric elements. Those same elements acquired an enormous presence in Spanish painting. Thanks to his exceptional gift for drawing and a special instinct for composition, Pérez Villaamil made a place for himself as a landscape painter with this new language, dedicating most of his work to painting indoor and outdoor scenes of monuments, views of real or invented cities filled with historical runs and fantastic landscapes that were extraordinarily attractive. While he patiently painted his works in his studio, many were based on splendid images he sketched from life, and they made him enormously famous in his time.

The spectacular fortress that crowns the horizon as the landscape’s supreme protagonist, the wild and remote natural setting, and the golden evening light that lengthens the bulls’ shadows on the ground all contribute to the unarguable charm of this painting made with the most picturesque and evocative ingredients of its genre. Despite its sober composition, this landscape is resolved with Villaamil’s most exquisite technique, using a careful and attentive drawing to precisely describe the bulls, each with its own coat, as well as the vibrant nuances and lighting of the leaves in the lushly foliated trees. Most of all, the rendering of the architecture, in which this masterful artist reveals his extraordinary capacity for invention, is visible in the inspired medieval constructions that he bases on his memory of real buildings, adding a degree of fantasy that makes them especially attractive. This work is also a fine example of how Villaamil interprets natural landscapes with a deliberately limited palette that leads the eye back to the background in masterfully nuanced transparencies. These are especially visible in the hazy mountains in the distance, which are resolved with subtle refinement (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 132-134).

Technical data

Inventory number
Pérez Villaamil y Duguet, Genaro
Herd of Bulls by a River below a Castle
Height: 91 cm; Width: 115 cm
Carlos González Bueno Collection, 1954; Acquisition, 1984

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas del siglo XIX, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1985, pp. 193.

Arias Angles, Enrique, El Paisajista Romántico Jenaro Pérez Villaamil, C.S.I.C.Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1986, pp. 218.

Puente, Joaquín de la, Pintura Española del Siglo XIX. Catálogo, Moscu, 1987.

Tres grandes maestros del paisaje decimonónico español: Jena, Ayuntamiento, Concejalía de Cultura, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº7.

Museo del Prado, Últimas adquisiciones: 1982-1995, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1995, pp. 102 nº43.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº2042.

La Ciudad Que Nunca Existio : Arquitecturas Fantasticas en el Arte Occidental, Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, 2003, pp. nº24.

Diez, J.L; Barón, J., El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, pp. 132 nº11.

Díez, José Luis (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado: catálogo general, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 471.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2042.
Genaro Pérez Villaamil / 2042. Manada de toros / L.. (0,91 x 1,15) / Cat. 6994 / Adquirido por el Ministerio de Cultura en 3.800.000 pts.[en 13] junio 1984

Inscriptions +

Villaamil / 1837
Signed and dated. Front, lower central area

Exhibitions +

Monumental Views of Spanish Cities. The Romantic Painter Genaro Pérez Villaamil
17.12.2014 - 06.09.2015

El Siglo XIX en el Prado
31.10.2007 - 20.04.2008

La ciudad que nunca existió. Arquitectura fantástica en al arte de Occidente
23.02.2004 - 30.05.2004

La ciudad que nunca existió. Arquitectura fantástica en al arte de Occidente
22.10.2003 - 01.02.2004

Tres maestros del paisaje decimonónico español: Jenaro Pérez Villamil, Carlos de Haes y Aureliano de Beruete
16.10.1990 - 09.12.1990

Pintura española del siglo XIX: de Goya a Picasso
San Petersburgo
05.04.1987 - 08.06.1987

Pintura española del siglo XIX: de Goya a Picasso
25.02.1987 - 01.04.1987

Update date: 26-02-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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