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Monumental Views of Spanish Cities. The Romantic Painter Genaro Pérez Villaamil
Catalogue

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

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

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 12/17/2014 - 9/6/2015

This previously unpublished group of works produced between 1835 and 1839 comprises 42 views painted on tin plates and assembled by the artist as a diptych with each side terminating in simple, pointed arches supported on columns, resulting in a unique work within the context of Spanish Romanticism.The views are remarkable examples of Villaamil’s use of oil when painting outdoors from life, as he normally only used this medium in his studio. They reveal his ability to depict interiors and exteriors of buildings, some of which are already in ruins and would soon disappear. These views also demonstrate his skill in working directly in oil and brush on tin plate, applying superimposed layers of very dilute pigment, than adding final touches to create highlights on the complex ornamental details of the Mudéjar and Gothic buildings, which are the two prevailing architectural styles in these scenes.The views in the Diptych anticipate Villaamil’s subsequent focus on the depiction of historic buildings and monuments, which led him to become artistic director of La España artística y monumental (1842-1850), a publishing project for which he supplied drawings and watercolours for reproduction as lithographs. The compositions and viewpoints of those works are closely related to some of the present views, as the lithographs on display reveal.

Curator:
Javier Barón, Chief Curator of the Department of the 19th Century Painting, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Access

Room 60. Jerónimos Building

Opening time

Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm. Sunday and holidays from 10am to 7pm.

In collaboration with:
Iberdrola

Exhibition

Restoration

Restoration
The Torre del Oro, Seville
Diptych with 42 Views of Spanish Cities,
Genaro Pérez Villaamil
Oil on tin plate, wood and paper, 172.5 × 89.5 cm (each plate).
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The fact that the views arrived at the Museum in their original state, without any later restorations, made it possible to appreciate that the aging of the original varnish and the accumulation of surface dirt had completely altered the chromatic values of a work more than 170 years old.

The most distinctive feature of Villaamil’s Diptych is the use of tin-plated steel plates as a support, giving the views a mirror-like appearance. Tin plates, which the artist frequently employed for commissions of this kind painted directly from life, were also used by Goya. However, subsequent generations of Spanish landscape painters, such as Carlos de Haes, Fortuny and Martín Rico, preferred to use small, light wooden panels, as the metal’s non-absorbent nature determines the pictorial effects that can be achieved.

Tin plates are a type of support suitable for painting from life as they are light and easy to transport and store. A preparation has to be applied to the metal to allow the pigment to be absorbed. In this case, Villaamil used an oily paint of a light, slightly ochre tone that helped him to achieve effects of light. Over this layer he approximately established the composition and the distribution of the areas of shade, then completed the scene in oil with such mastery that he achieved effects comparable to drawing or watercolour.

The defect of tin plates is their fragility and susceptibility to damp. However, the fact that these views have been extremely well mounted since the time of their creation has meant that they remain in excellent condition.

The pictorial resources used by the artist, particularly the red lake glazes, complicated the recent cleaning process. This fact, together with the unique nature of the metal supports, necessitated the use of different materials and procedures to those habitually employed for oil on canvas.

Artworks

7

Choir of the Hieronymite Monastery of Santa María del Parral, Segovia

Genaro Pérez Villaamil Pencil on paper, 300 x 400 mm Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

14

View of a City with a Procession

Genaro Pérez Villaamil Watercolour on paper, 500 x 690 mm Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

15

Cloister of the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo

Charles Claude Bachelier and Adolphe-Jean-Baptiste Bayot after Genaro Pérez Villaamil España artística y monumental, Vol I. Lithograph, 570 x 410 mm

16

Ruins of the Castle at Alcalá de Guadaíra

Julien Jacottet after Genaro Pérez Villaamil España artística y monumental, Vol I. Lithograph, 570 x 410 mm

17

Door of the Lions, Toledo Cathedral

Alfred Guesdon after Genaro Pérez Villaamil España artística y monumental, Vol I. Lithograph, 570 x 410 mm

18

Door of the Tower Chapel, Toledo Cathedral

Michel Charles Fichot and Adolphe-Jean-Baptiste Bayot after Genaro Pérez Villaamil España artística y monumental, Vol I. Lithograph, 570 x 410 mm

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