Eduardo Sánchez Solá

Madrid, 1869 - Granada, 1949

  • Courting Couple at the Fountain


Sánchez Solá is linked to the school of Granada although he was born in Madrid on 25 June 1869. A student at the Special School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving and of the painters Alejandro Ferrant Fischermans and the more modest Luis Taberner Montalvo (in his decorative art works submitted to the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts), he himself became a teacher at the Granada School of Arts and Crafts. He is described as a painter of genre scenes, portraits and animals (his rather sickly-sweet pictures of kittens are quoted and reproduced), a watercolourist and an illustrator. As for genre scenes, Sánchez Solá gained a reputation as “the painter of altar boys” (monaguillos) after he was quoted (by Gaya Nuño) as being the practitioner par excellence of “such an imbecilic genre” characteristic of the prosaic nature of the Restoration period in which Alfonso XII reigned (“the mediocrity of the years of Cánovas and Sagasta”), which witnessed the lowering of religious painting to altar-boy level – or in other words from the Pantocrator of St Clement of Tahull to a group of boys in red cassocks whose pranks were endearing to any sensitive soul. The “rage” for these altar boy paintings (“Monaguillismo with a capital m”) explains, in sculpture, the altar boys crafted by Manuel Fuxá and Mariano Benlliure, replicas of the many painted by José Gallegos Arnosa, Oliver Aznar, Joaquín Sorolla [El resbalón del monaguillo (“The Altar Boy Slips”) of 1892] and so many others. The genre met with such success – as Gaya Nuño notes – that it was not shunned by a young painter of fifteen (1896) called Picasso, as evidenced by his Altar Boy in the Sala Collection in Barcelona (later moved to the Museu de Monserrat), which is “notable for being a Picassian incunabulum, not for any other reason”.

Other genre scenes are Playtime (oil on canvas, Bonhams, 23/III/2004, lot no. 92), Mischief (oil on canvas, 94.6 x 121.9 cm, signed, Waddington’s, auction 16/VI/2003, lot. no. 353), a humorous work in which one of the figures in a playful group of girls in the painter’s studio paints a moustache on the portrait of one of them. This was not an uncommon theme in painting of this kind, which was fond of jokes; another example is a work by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta entitled Model Making Mischief (1885) in the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, although in the case of Madrazo, whose model is, naturally, Aline Masson, she doodles the face of the painter – who is absent from the scene though the girl appears to be looking at him – exaggerating his moustache and goatee beard, on the canvas displaying her likeness. Other genre scenes by Sánchez Solá are Preparándose para las fallas (“Preparing for the Fallas”, c. 1920, oil on canvas, 58 x 98 cm, Madrid, Durán, 19/XII/2006), which is discussed on the website of the Fundación María José Jove, art collection; Escena familiar en un cocina campesina (“Family Scene in a Country Kitchen”, oil on canvas, Palais Dorotheum, Vienna, 15/X/2008, lot no. 533, and Nagel, Stuttgart, 23/II/2011, lot no. 867); El trofeo (“The Trophy”, oil on canvas, 95 x 151.5 cm, signed and dated 1927, Christie’s of London, 29/XI/2001, lot no. 153) showing a group of rascals in which three gaze in amazement at what a fourth has laid his hands on, a cage with baby birds; and a painting listed as Untitled but featuring a scene with four girls sitting or lying resting on the grass in a country landscape dominated by a large leaning tree trunk (Madrid, Fernando Durán, 3/VI/2006). A literary theme is explored in Boceto para el cuadro “El beso” de la leyenda de Bécquer (“Bozzetto for the Painting ‘The Kiss’ from the Legend of Bécquer”, oil on canvas, Madrid, Alcalá Subastas, 1/X/2006, lot no. 31), but there are also single full-length figures representing or performing everyday activities, always infused with a monumental sense of the human form that characterises the painter, irrespective of the size of the painting. Examples are Mujer con cesto (“Woman with Basket”) in which, as in Goya’s The Water Seller , The Knife Grinder and The Forge (the first two in the National Museum in Budapest and the third in the Frick Collection in New York), the female figure powerfully fills the picture space; the raised left leg resting on a higher step pairs this Mujer con cesto with another work by Sánchez Solá belonging to this same subgenre and quoted in the catalogue entry for Courting Couple at the Fountain, namely Valenciana regando las flores (“Valencian Girl Watering Flowers”). Further examples are La Fortuna (“Fortune”) showing a seated gypsy woman dealing out cards and Joven cosiendo (“Young Woman Sewing”, oil on canvas, Madrid, Durán, 11/IX/2006, lot no. 136), portraits such as Dama (“Lady”, 1895, oil on canvas, Madrid, Durán, 28/III/2006, lot no. 121), bucolic country scenes like Pastor con cabras en un sender (“Herder with Goats on a Path”, oil on canvas, Madrid, Alcalá Subastas, 1/X/2006, lot no. 37) and landscape views such as Paisaje meridional (“Southern Landscape”, Vienna, Palais Dorotheum, 15/II/2011, lot no. 16) which contains a handsome Romanesque-type tower.

In addition to all these titles, dictionaries of painters generally list as being painted by Sánchez Solá, specifying no further details, works such as Gitana (“Gypsy Woman”), La hora del desayuno (“Breakfast Time”), El favorito (“The Favourite”), Cazadores furtivos (“Poachers”), El regalo de los abuelos (“The Grandparents’ Gift”), Las dos favoritas (“The Two Favourites”), ¡Que viene el guarda! (“The Guard Is Coming!), El destete (“Weaning”), ¡Pájaro seas!, Patio andaluz (“Andalusian Courtyard”), La mujer de la rosa (“Woman with a Rose”), Tristes noticias (“Sad News”), El marido vengado (“The Husband Avenged”), El alcalde de mi pueblo (“The Mayor of My Village”), El collar de perlas (“The Pearl Necklace”), El nido (“The Nest”), Un nene (“A Little Boy”), Cabeza (“Head”), Cossete, ¡Vaya por usted! (“That Goes for You!”, a watercolour), Jabegote de Málaga (“Fisherman of Malaga”), En la fuente (“At the Fountain”) and Al nieto del modelo (“To the Model’s Grandson”). And also, En acecho (“In Wait”), which is reproduced in Hispania (vol. IV [89], 30 October 1902, p. 459). Some biographical sketches point out that he had a sound training and scant creativity, and also that he is represented in the Museo Arqueológico in Cuenca. In fact the painting in question has long been on extended loan from the Museo del Prado (whose Enciclopedia documents it in Madrid between 1895 and 1904, though it is not possible to ascertain whether it was actually in the capital city); Spain’s leading art museum actually owns two works by the painter on child themes [from the information listed in the 1983 exhibition on paintings of children in the Prado: Monaguillo (“Altar Boy”, oil/canvas, 70 x 40 cm, signed, inv. P4645) and Niña (“Girl”, oil/canvas, 47 x 32 cm, signed and on deposit in Vitoria, Alava Museum of Fine Arts, inv. P6657)].

As an illustrator, it is common knowledge that he contributed regularly to La Ilustración Española y Americana, but he also illustrated books for the publisher Ginés Carrión, such as Pascual Millán’s Trilogía taurina (Madrid, 1905), the novel El proceso de Satanás (Madrid, 1906) by Jaime Martí-Miquel (Marquis of Benzú), Voltaire’s La poesía épica y el gusto de los pueblos (Madrid, 1906), Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus’s Roma galante bajo los Césares (Madrid, 1907, 2 vols.), and Paul Gourmand’s El secreto de las olas (Madrid, 1907). Other books not published by Ginés Carrión but illustrated by Sánchez Solá are Adolphe Belot’s Flor de crimen (Madrid, 1906) and Enrique Contreras Camargo’s De la vida y del amor (Madrid, 1901), although the latter also features illustrations by Xaudaró, Alberti, Enciso, Huerta, Méndez Bringer, Marín, Bauda, Estevan and Menéndez.

Sánchez Solá showed his work at local exhibitions such as the Regional Exhibition of Modern Art in Granada, that of the Centro Artístico (1942) and that of Linares (1943), but above all at the official competitions par excellence, the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts, especially in the 1890s. He entered two works in that of 1890, Paisaje (“Landscape”, 30 x 45 cm) and Cabeza (“Head”, 46 x 31 cm, nos. 906 and 907 respectively of the catalogue, which refers to him as a student of the Special School of Painting and living at Fuencarral, 104). He submitted five in 1892 (nos 1.151 to 1.155 of the catalogue, which lists him as living at Sagasta, 3): Retrato de don F.S.S. (“Portrait of Mr F.S.S.”, 112 x 83 cm), Paisaje (“Landscape”, 52 x 87 cm), idem (52 x 87 cm – evidently a companion piece), El nido (“The Nest”, 29 x 39 cm) and Un nene (82 x 25 cm). He submitted six works in 1895 (nos. 1.080 to 1.085, and his address was Peninsular, 7, studio): Retrato de don J.S.M. (“Portrait of Mr J.S.M”, 60 x 42 cm), Cossete (50 x 67 cm), El marido vengado (boceto) (bozzetto, 50 x 79 cm), El collar de perlas (100 x 70 cm), Estudio (“Study”, 84 x 50 cm) and ¡Vaya por usted! (watercolour, 84 x 68 cm), obtaining an honorary mention for the portrait. He entered his highest number ever in that of 1897, eight paintings (nos. 989 to 996 and is recorded as living at the same address as previously): Jabegote de Málaga (72 x 42 cm, a jabegote being someone who pulls in the long ends of the jábega or large fishing net from the shore), Estudio (80 x 52 cm), El Alcalde de mi pueblo (80 x 51 cm), Paisaje (14 x 15 cm), Cabeza de monaguillo (10 x 14 cm), Tristes noticias (50 x 23 cm), Pájaro seas (95 x 150 cm) and Cabeza de studio (52 x 35 cm), winning one of the medals third-class for Tristes noticias. He showed two in the exhibition of 1899 (nos. 765 and 766, and was by then living in Cardenal Cisneros, 58, 3o) and received the same prize: El destete (200 x 300 cm, which won him another medal third-class) and En la fuente (22 x 45 cm). He submitted only one work to the painting section of the exhibition of 1901, ¡Que viene el guarda! (250 x 350 cm, no. 1.006 of the catalogue with an illustration and the same address) showing a group of little boys, one held by a girl, who hurriedly jump over a wall after stealing some apples that are tellingly scattered on the ground or pressed against the chest of the one who flees in fear, but he also took part in the decorative art section in that year’s National Exhibition under the heading of wall decorations, sketches and projects, posters and heraldry, entering two works (nos. 1.512 and 1.513), Cacería (“Hunt”, 200 x 300 cm) and another Cacería (150 x 300 cm, imitating tapestry), and received one of the “Awards”, apparently for his overall effort. He entered three works in that of 1904 (nos. 1.298 to 1.300), El regalo de los abuelos (232 x 330 cm, with an illustration), Gitana (80 x 50 cm) and La mejor amiga (“Best Friend”, 55 x 43 cm), and also in the category of decorative painting and its industrial applications in the decorative art section, “Three panels with oil bozzetti: 1º Bozzetto of tapestries. 2. idem, id. 3 idem, id.” [no. 1.910 and listed as a student of Luis Taberner (in relation to the paintings he claims to be a pupil of Alejandro Ferrant)], obtaining another honorary mention in this latter section. And finally, in 1906, he submitted Five O’clock [172 x 252 cm, no. 1.124, then recorded as living in Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid), Calle de la Iglesia].

Eduardo Sánchez Solá died in Granada in 1949.

Esteban Casado