Called “El pintor de la Espana Negra” (The painter of the darker Spain), José Gutiérrez Solana was born in Madrid, where he studied art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, influenced by his uncle José Diez Palma, who taught at the University of Salamanca.
From 1909 the young Solana frequently visited the port of Santander, where he would paint in taverns, popular fairs and fishing ports. The repetition of the figures and the similar port background in Solana’s La Vuelta de la Pesca set in Santander (fig. 1) suggest that the present lot was executed around 1917, during one of Solana’s travels to Santander.
The influence of Spanish baroque tenebrismo is reflected in Solana’s sombre themes and emphasised in the artist’s stylistic use of chiaroscuro, as employed in Francisco de Goya’s Black Paintings.
Solana’s painting presents great social weight, and reflects the austerity of Spain at the turn of the century through dense, thick brushstrokes. His tenebrist palette contrasts the dark colours in the background against the whites, red and bright blues of the clothing of the workers, intended to symbolize their strength and positivism in adversity.