Santiago Rusiñol was, with his friends Ramón Casas and Ignacio Zuloaga, a leading member of the Spanish avant-garde, who studied in France in the late 1880s. Their early work combined combined tonal elements of James WcNeill Whistler and Eugène Carrière, with realist subjects drawn from urban life.
On his return to Spain, Rusiñol developed a unique strand of modernism which he translated into poetic paintings of landscapes and gardens, rendered in heightened, vibrant tones; these he modulated to create paintings whose language varied from the overtly symbolist to more naturalist works, such as the present lot, which convey the atmopshere and landscape of Majorca and Catalonia, imbued all the while with a latent sense of allegory.
This painting has the bold compositional structure that is characteristic of the artist: the sense of symmetry (a particular feature of the artist's garden paintings) is rendered here by the evenly divided rock formations in the distance, but balanced by the diagonal sweep of the walled path in the foreground. The path also serves to give a sense of depth, although this is truncated by the high horizon line, which serves to push the picture plane forward. The result is to create the sense of an exterior space that is somewhat hermetic, in this case walled in.
The slightly unsettling impression of insularity is not dissimilar to that evident in the paintings of Rusiñol's contemporary, Vilhelm Hammershøi, a sense reinforced in both artists by the depictions of man-made spaces -- whether interior or exterior -- that are entirely devoid of a human presence. However, the overall effect of Rusiñol's painting is quite different: the highly keyed palette, charaterised by strong pinks, greens and yellows, harks back to a tradition in Spanish painting that stretches back to El Greco, bringing the landscape vividly to life.
Miguel Sarmiento, reviewing the exhibition of paintings by Rusiñol in the Sale Parés in 1905, described the present work as follows: 'L'Estret, the valley flooded with sunlight is, without doubt, the most accomplished of the 20 exhibited landscapes: a parade of colours, a harmony of light tones, a magisterial work of great atmosphere, executed with insuperable but unaffected technical ability.' (M. Sarmiento, op. cit.).
We are grateful to Mercedes Paul-Ribes for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.