Manuel Wssel de Guimbarda
Trinidad de Cuba, 1833 - Cartagena, 1907
The son of a cavalry officer born in Cartagena and a Cuban landowner, Manuel Wssel de Guimbarda lived in Trinidad de Cuba until the age of five, when his mother died. He returned to Spain with his father and settled in Cadiz. From there he moved to Madrid, where he studied at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts, later going to Cartagena, where he was employed as a sub-lieutenant of the marine infantry. That year he painted his first important work, La batalla de Lepanto (“The Battle of Lepanto”). After an initial stay in Cartagena, around 1866 or 1867 he moved to Seville, where he began to sign as “Wssel”. He took part in the Madrid National Exhibition of Fine Arts of 1866, entering Murillo, en Capuchinos, pintando la Virgen conocida con el nombre de la Servilleta (“Murillo, in the Capuchin Monastery, Painting the Virgin Known as that of the Napkin”) and took part in the exhibitions held in Seville in 1867 and in Cadiz in 1868. In the Andalusian capital he made copies of works by Murillo, Ribera and Velázquez, among other painters. He painted a few landscapes, a fair number of portraits, among others for the university and Columbine libraries, and genre scenes. Many of the latter are influenced by Fortuny, whose company he frequented while the Catalan painter was in the city. He also painted fans and, like Fortuny, was an outstanding watercolourist.
Wssel furthermore held several council posts, such as alderman in 1874 and councillor for public works. He taught at the Cadiz School of Fine Arts and later, in 1879, at that of Seville. Two years previously he had been elected a member of the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. In 1886 or 1887 he settled in Cartagena, where he became the foremost artist of the city. He received many commissions and taught at his studio. Among other assignments, he painted the decoration of the Athenaeum, the main theatre, the Café Imperial and the interior of the church of La Caridad, as well as decorative work for the towns of Lorca and Totana.