Ramón Casas (Spanish, 1866-1932)
Ramón Casas (Spanish, 1866-1932)

A l'estiu tota cuca viu

Ramón Casas (Spanish, 1866-1932)
A l'estiu tota cuca viu
signed and dated 'R. Casas 86' (lower left)
oil on canvas
29 x 25½ in. (73.7 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1886.
Charles Deering, Chicago, acquired directly from the artist.
thence by descent to the present owner.
Pèl & Ploma, 15 May 1901, no. 76, p. 1 (illustrated).
Alcolea Albero, Ramón Casas, 1990, p. 14 (illustrated).
Isabel Coll, Ramón Casas, Catálogo Razondo, 2002, no. 75, p. 159 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Born in 1866 in Barcelona, Ramón Casas began his artistic training in the studio of Joan Vicens. He took his first trip to Paris in 1881 where he studied under Carolus Duran and became acquainted with the work of Manet and other contemporary Parisian artists. Casas continued to travel, making trips to Madrid where he saw works by Goya and Velazquez and to Grenada and Rome where he saw works by Fortuny. He later became one of the foremost artists of Catalan modernism and associated himself with the group that met at Els Quatre Gats café in Barcelona.

Casas began to explore the theme of the bullfight in 1884 and painted the present work in 1886 at the age of twenty. Casas' choice of vantage point, moment, and technique allow him to recreate the true intensity of the bullfighting arena. In the same way that Manet paints The Bullfight, 1865-67, Casas juxtaposes the intimacy and solitude of the bullfight with the spectacle of the crowd to show the violence and beauty of the event (fig. 1). Casas sets the viewer inside of the ring instead of as an outside spectator, granting the viewer access to a privileged point of view and also displaying every muscle and emotion of the central characters in detail. The large fallen horse in foreground forms a diagonal serving to engage the viewer and lead them into the main event between the picador and the bull.

Casas chooses to display the moment just after the climax of the show and to make the bull the champion. At this moment the bull asserts himself as he has just taken down two horses and even knocked the picador off of his horse. The bull stands victorious in a rigid pose looking into the eyes of the picador, while the picador lowers his weapon and stands behind his horse. Casas titled the painting: A l'estiu tota cuca viu, a Catalan proverb which comments on how it is much easier to survive in the summertime.

The immediacy of the moment is further emphasized in Casas painting technique. Casas paints clearly defined figures in the foreground to present the dramatic central event, and alters his brushwork in the background to a series of pulsating color blocks suggesting an agitated mass crowd. Casas utilizes a basic palette composed of primary colors and simple brushstrokes to beautifully capture the intensity between the three main characters; bull, picador, and public. Casas was later known for his ability to recreate the vibrant soul of a crowd; however, when the first of these works, Corrida de Toros, 1884, was presented in the exhibition La Sala Parés de Barcelona the critics commented that this should not be considered a finished work, but rather a sketch (fig. 2).

(fig. 1) Manet, The Bullfight, 1865-67, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1937.1019, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit: Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago.

(fig. 2) Ramón Casas, la Corrida de Toros, 1884.

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