The piece of the month of August 2008


Ignacio J. Urricelqui Pacho
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art

The training of Spanish artists in the 19th century was largely subject to the guidelines imposed by the Madrid Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando through the Special School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving, created in 1844. Historiography has been very hard on this center, which is considered stagnant and not very permeable to new fashions, however, the reality was that few Spanish artists of the 19th century failed to pass through its classrooms, training with the most renowned masters of each moment in the official sphere. The training in this center granted the student the necessary technical knowledge to exercise the professional work, at the same time that it qualified him to exercise the artistic teaching , way that took a good issue of artists through official centers -academies, schools of arts and trades, institutes, etc.- or private.

The Navarrese painters of the period between centuries were no strangers to this internship and went to the Special School, either with the support of an official institution -Diputación de Navarra or city councils-, private aid, or through their own means. The list of Navarrese artists enrolled in the center in the transition from the XIX to the XX century leaves no doubt about the survival of the academic method and about the clear desire of those artists to be trained in Madrid.

One of these Navarrese artists was Nicolás Esparza (1873-1928), author of the drawing we bring to this section, and who belongs to what has been called the "first generation of contemporary Navarrese painters", formed, along with him, by Eduardo Carceller, Andrés Larraga, Inocencio García Asarta, and Enrique Zubiri, among others. programs of study Esparza began his artistic studies at the Academia Castel Ruiz de Tudela, under the direction of Aniceto Sada, and continued them at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid between 1891 and 1900. Between 1893 and 1895 he was granted a scholarship by the Diputación de Navarra and the Real Sociedad Tudelana de Amigos del País. There he studied drawing, composition, coloring and engraving, and was also a copyist at the Prado Museum, where he became interested in the work of Velázquez, Goya, as well as contemporary painters such as Benlliure or Casado del Alisal. In 1892 he took part in the National Fine Arts Competition exhibition , repeating the experience in the editions of 1897, 1899, 1901, 1904 and 1906. Back in Navarre, he worked for the local clientele, both institutional and private, particularly in the field of portraiture. civil service examination In 1910 he obtained the place of professor of drawing at the School of Arts and Crafts in Sestao, the city where he settled until his death, becoming director of the center, position which gave him enormous prestige among the population and its surroundings. Besides, he combined the teaching with painting, specializing in the portrait genre, with which he achieved certain fame in Biscay. According to Llano Gorostiza, he was considered the official portraitist of Bilbao, competing in this field with his fellow countryman García Asarta. After his death, the City Council of Sestao promoted the construction of a pantheon and a monument to his name report, financed in part by popular subscription.

Nicolás Esparza, "Male nude with his back turned and resting his arm on a pedestal."

Nicolás Esparza, "Male nude on his back and resting his arm on a pedestal", c.a. 1894.
Charcoal/paper. 63x48 cm.
Fine Arts Collection. Library Services of the School of Fine Arts of the Complutense University of Madrid.
I.P.A.F.F.B.A.: 1977


The drawing we bring to this section, which is part of the collection of the School of Fine Arts of the Complutense University of Madrid, is a good example to analyze the stage of training of the painter from Tudela during his long stay in Madrid. It is a charcoal in which a male nude is represented from behind and which is nothing more than an academy, the generic name given to this subject of works by classroom in which the artists copied a live model , exclusively male, who posed for them during the classes. This exercise, which was developed in the subject of Drawing from life, in which he was enrolled during the academic years 1892-1893 to 1896-1897, and in 1898-1899, was intended to train the student in drawing and modeling. Esparza's work is correct, typical of an outstanding student who obtained several distinctions for his application during his apprenticeship at the School. It shows a correct drawing, attentive to the natural, which faithfully reproduces the Anatomy of the model, and a modeling concentrated on the lights and shadows that perfectly defines the profiles, with attention to the Anatomy. As can be seen, the pose of the subject is affected, with the left hand resting on the hip and the right foot slightly raised, resting on a wooden wedge.

Nicolás Esparza, "Nude Warrior", 1894. Collection of the Museum of Navarra

Nicolás Esparza, "Nude Warrior", 1894. Collection of the Museum of Navarra

The Museum of Navarra (Pamplona) exhibits in one of its rooms an oil on canvas graduate "Nude Warrior", dated 1894, which we have already put elsewhere in close relation to this drawing of the Complutense University, understanding that both are examples of the training of the Navarrese painter in the classrooms of the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando and even has been pointed out the possibility that the model who posed for both was the same given their physical resemblance. The painting sample shows a nude man, standing, holding a long stick in his left hand, like a spear, and resting his right hand on a gladiator's helmet, in the style of the pompier, which remains on a support covered by a brown cloth. This canvas, which the artist from Tudela sent to the Diputación de Navarra, probably as a pensioner's work , is inscribed, like the drawing of Madrid, in the classes of Drawing from life that he received in the Special School.

The author wishes to thank Mª Ángeles Vian Herrero, director of the Library Services of the School of Fine Arts of the Complutense University of Madrid, as well as the technicians of the Museum of Navarra for the materials and permissions provided for the preparation of this work.

GIL GÓMEZ, L., Tudelanos notables contemporáneos, in TCP, n. 181, Pamplona, Diputación Foral de Navarra, 1984, p. 13.
MARTÍN LOMEÑA, "Nicolás Esparza. El amor a los demás", in MARTÍN CRUZ, S. (Dir.), Pintores navarros, t. I, Pamplona, CAMP, 1981.
DÍEZ OCHOA, J. and MOTILVA, M., catalog of the exhibition Nicolás Esparza, Pamplona, Government of Navarre, 1991, s. p.
LLANO GOROSTIZA, M., Basque Painting, Bilbao, 1980, p. 238.
Los dibujos de la Academia, Madrid, Ed. Universidad Complutense, 1990, Lam. LXXIII
URRICELQUI PACHO, I. J., "La primera generación de pintores navarros contemporáneos: aportaciones para un catálogo de sus pinturas en el Museo de Navarra", file Español de Arte, n. 300, 2002, pp. 394-395.

Other sources:
Patrimonio Artístico de la School de Bellas Artes. Inventory. Complutense University of Madrid. 2002. Ed. CD.