Andrés Cortés y Aguilar
Seville, 1815 - 1879
This painter’s oeuvre is very prolific and highly personal, yet there is little accurate information about his life.
His father, Antonio Cortés, lived in France and had been a pupil of the landscape and animal painter Constantin Troyon (1810–1865). This early training period with his father undoubtedly influenced Andrés’ preference for painting landscapes featuring animals; indeed, he would become one of the most prominent specialists of the day in this genre, which accounts for much of his output.
From 1840 he lived in Seville, where he would spend his whole life and consolidate his career. He taught at the School of Fine Arts and became a member of the academy in 1862, soon achieving fame in the Sevillian artistic circles for his attractive panoramic views of the city populated with figures. He is best known today for these works, which earned him a significant reputation in his own day among his clientele, who hailed from Seville’s high society. The most famous of them are undoubtedly his versions of The Seville Fair. The first was painted for the Count of Ybarra, the promoter of the popular cattle fair, and the other, signed in 1852, is housed in the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts.
Andrés Cortés painted other views of Seville with equally ambitious compositions in which the focus is on describing the buildings and monuments as well as the social types who populate them and their clothing, in vivid, brilliant colours. Much of his appeal lies in these aspects of his oeuvre, a prominent example of which is the Vista de Sevilla desde el Prado de San Sebastián (“View of Seville from the Prado de San Sebastián”), painted in 1866 (Seville, collection of Javier Benjumea).
However, most of the artist’s known works – and those that earned him a living as their decorative picturesqueness made them easily sellable – were the rural landscapes with animals, usually flocks of sheep or herds of cows led by their shepherds or cowherds. Good examples are those entitled Camino de la Feria (“On the Way to the Fair”, Seville, conde de Aguiar), Paisaje con pastores y Ganado (“Landscape with Cowherds and Cattle”, Palma del Condado, Cepeda Collection), Paisaje de fantasia (“Fantasy Landscape”, Madrid, Fundación Santamarca), and the landscapes with figures in the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Cortés y Aguilar also produced a few portraits of lesser quality, such as Nicolás Antonio (Seville, Biblioteca Colombina), signed in 1851; José María Ybarra (Seville, conde de Ybarra), painted in 1854; and Rodrigo Ponce de León, marqués de Cádiz (Seville, city hall), signed two years later. He was an interesting painter of human types, good examples of which are El tío Gamboa de Hinojos (private collection) painted in 1857 and Leñador cosiéndose la ropa (“Woodcutter Sewing His Clothing”, Seville, private collection). He is also known to have painted a few religious pictures, such as La caridad de las Hermanas de San Vicente de Paúl (“The Charity of the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul”, Seville, city hall, on deposit at the Hogar de la Virgen de los Reyes), executed in 1847, as well as a large history painting of 1848 showing Guzmán el Bueno knighting his son, which aroused a certain amount of interest in the Sevillian press of the day and was acquired by the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier.
A participant in the Exhibitions of Fine Arts held in the city, in 1858 he was awarded a silver medal for Un país (“A Country”), and in 1868 entered Una cabaña (“A Cabin”). He enjoyed recognition in his own city, which showered local honours and distinctions on him, and he even became a full founding member of the Diputación Arqueológica (archaeological committee) of Seville and president of the arts section, a correspondent of the Royal Academy of Archaeology and Geography of the Prince Don Alonso and of that of Cordoba, and a member of the Society for Emulation and Development, as well as being decorated with several crosses.
José Luis Díez