lunes, 16 de abril de 2012

Arte Español Para Extranjeros by Ricardo Abrantes, Araceli Fernández, Santiago Manzarbeitia

Arte Español Para Extranjeros by Ricardo Abrantes, Araceli Fernández, Santiago Manzarbeitia is a superb idea, an excellent read and a perfect way of practising the language. The book charts chronologically the eras and styles of Spanish art. It starts with the pre-historical and archaeological, travels via the Iberian period, the Romans and the Visigoths, to the centuries of Islamic art and the Romanesque. By the time we have reached Gothic art, we almost feel we have come up to date. The Renaissance was not as big an issue in Spain as elsewhere in Europe, but the Baroque flowered and led into what the authors call the modern era. Goya is presented quite convincingly almost as a Beethoven of painting, in other words a figure from whose work almost two hundred years of future development can be traced. Picasso, Dali and Miró bring us into the contemporary era and the book’s final pages present abstract expressionism and works of Chillada.

The Spanish text is immediately accessible. The descriptions are succinct and clearly written. Technical terms are included in a useful glossary whose definitions could not be more accessible or better written. Though there are copious illustrations, this is no mere picture book. The examples have been included to illustrate the text and they carry out the task admirably, thus offering quite remarkable clarity to the excellent descriptions of style, technique and content.

What is so intriguing about Spanish art, the fact that separates it from the rest of Europe, is the Islamic period. Artistic and literary achievements in particular during those centuries have continued to influence both Spain’s cultural life and its language. No other European country has this complexity. Too often, however, the Islamic period is presented as something separate, something overcome and wholly in the past. This is not so in Arte Español Para Extranjeros. Not only via references to mozarabe and mudejar, but also by noting how stylistic elements were adopted by Islamic, Christian and Jewish artists and architects, the authors manage to present a portrait of Spanish art that represents a real synthesis.

A visit to the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC) in Barcelona would point out how the resplendent Gothic period of religious painting in Spain owes much to contact with northern Europe, Flanders in particular, and little to Italian influence. In Arte Español Para Extranjeros the text presents this relationship with great clarity and also adequately describes the political and trading context that led to these influences prevailing above those from the geographically closer Mediterranean areas.

Non-native Spanish speakers who have even the remotest interest in the arts will find this book captivating and useful in two ways. First its very accessibility makes it a perfect vehicle for the language learner to improve reading skills and vocabulary. But on another level, the book’s ambitious project really does deliver clear, interesting and enlightening observations on style and influence.

Arte Español Para Extranjeros was a very ambitious project that could so easily have failed to deliver. In the hands of its three authors, however, it has delivered an almost faultless success.

No hay comentarios: