The Pass. Jaraba de AragónCa. 1872. Oil on canvas, 39 x 60 cm.
This work shows a setting on the outskirts of the town of Jaraba, bordering the province of Guadalajara at the southeastern edge of the province of Zaragoza in the Mesa River Cañon between Jaraba and Calmarza. It was painted by Carlos de Haes on his way to the Monasterio de Piedra, one of his favorite places to paint landscapes after he discovered it in the summer of 1856. He had been invited by his friend, Federico Muntadas, who then owned the Monastery and the surrounding land, and he visited it repeatedly over the course of his life. Carlos de Haes was particularly attracted to the characteristic mountainous wind and water-worn terrain on the road from Jaraba, especially the play of evening light on the ocher surface of its limestone rocks and clay soil.
While Carlos de Haes’s considerable fame and public renown were due to his large composed landscapes, exemplified by The Canal of Mancorbo in the Picos de Europa, his more intimate and sincere facet as a renovating force in Spanish landscape painting is visible in the splendid oil studies he painted outdoors. These, and innumerable pencil sketches, constitute the artistic legacy he left to his favorite students. In fact, over the course of his life, Haes kept the vast majority of the oil studies he painted on his excursions -either alone or accompanied by his students. This was his manner of teaching them to capture the landscape on the spot, outdoors, and it transformed the approach to this genre for the generations of Spanish landscape painters who attended his classes. These are rapid sketches taken from life in a single session of no more that one or two hours. They were painted on small-format canvases, cardboard or paper cut to fit the small wooden case he carried on his excursions and used as a sort of portable easel, attaching the supports to it with tacks whose marks are still visible on the edge of most of them. Back at his studio, Haes mounted his most fragile studies on more ridged and substantial supports, so that most are still intact today (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 284-289).