Barcelona and the Avant Garde

This post is reproduced with permission from the British Library European Studies blog: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/european/2015/02/barcelona-and-the-avant-garde.html

Barcelona was more open to outside influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than the Spanish capital, Madrid. It witnessed the flowering of modernisme, the Catalan variant of art nouveau, whose most notable exponent was the eccentric architect Antoni Gaudí. He continued his most extravagant project, the Sagrada Familia, until his death in 1926.

However, by 1906 modernisme was considered overly aesthetic and had given way to noucentisme. Initiated by Eugeni d’Ors, this cultural and intellectual movement, literally ‘of the new century’, was urban, middle-class and distinctly nationalist both politically and culturally. In the visual arts and literature, noucentisme can be seen as a return to order, to Classicism and social cohesion after the individualism of modernisme. In fact, Catalan artists and writers were influenced by movements from elsewhere in Europe, but remained true to local traditions, spirit and language. The avant-garde movement in Barcelona should be seen against the background of noucentisme, sometimes emerging from it, at other times provoked by it.

Spain’s neutrality in the FirstWorld War brought a number of foreign artists to Barcelona. They included Serge Charchoune and Hélène Grunhoff, Albert Gleizes, Robert and Sonia Delaunay who went to nearby Sitges, and most notably Francis Picabia who published the first four issues of his Dadaist periodical 391 in the city in 1917 (1960 reprint, British Library X.902/721). Picasso returned from Paris to Barcelona  the same year, while Joan Miró continued to study and work in the region.

The key figure in the contemporary artistic life of the period was Josep Dalmau, who had opened his Galeries Dalmau in 1911. The following year he organized the first avant-garde art exhibition in Spain there, the ‘Exposició d’art cubista’ and also exhibited paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period. Dalmau mounted Miró’s first one-man show in 1918. However, with the end of the war, most of the foreigners left the region, while native artists were free again to travel abroad.

The first properly avant-garde movement in Catalonia can be dated to 1916 and the appearance of the first issue of Troços (‘Pieces’), founded by Josep Maria Junoy, a poet and art critic closely associated with Dalmau. Its content set a pattern for similar publications with its mixture of art criticism and verse, often calligrammatic and related thematically to the visual arts.  Junoy published a collection of poems, Poemes i cal.ligrames (RB.23.b.6900), in 1920, including a version of his earlier visual poem ‘Oda a Guynemer’ in memory of the French air ace Georges Guynemer.  The work earned him the praise of Guillaume Apollinaire.

It was the presence of Miró, the Catalan Uruguayan Joaquín Torres-García and the Uruguayan Rafael Barradas that gave greatest impetus to this first expression of the avant garde in Barcelona. All three contributed to the publications initiated by Joan Salvat-Papasseit, arguably the most significant Catalan avant-garde writer in spite of his early death at the age of 30. JoanSalvat-Papasseit2

Joan Salvat-Papasseit, statue in Port Vell, Barcelona (picture by Tommykavanagh from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1917 Salvat-Papasseit founded the periodical Un enemic del poble (‘An Enemy of the People’, 1917-19) whose subtitle Fulla de subversió espiritual (‘Leaflet of Spiritual Subversion’) is indicative of his political radicalism. Salvat-Papasseit subsequently edited two further periodicals, Arc-voltaic (‘Arc-Lamp’; one issue, 1918) and Proa  (‘Prow’; two issues, 1921). In all three there is a similar collaboration between text and image, already manifest in Troços. A female figure by Miró appeared on the cover of Arc-voltaic, while the drawing by Barradas on an inside page is an example of his vibracionismo, a variant of Italian Futurism, illustrating the pulsating dynamism of the modern city. The texts included Italian and French versions of Torres-García’s ‘Art-evolució (a manera de manifest)’, a call for individuality and constant change in art which had already appeared in Catalan in Un enemic del poble the previous year. Salvat-Papasseit himself contributed a calligrammatic poem describing the city of Barcelona. The following year he issued Contra els poetes amb minúscula. Primer manifest català futurista (‘Against Lower-case Poets.  First Catalan Futurist Manifesto’), a call for an unspecified modernity in poetry. (Arc-voltaic, Un enemic del poble and Contra els poetes amb minúscula are all reprinted in the 1994 facsimile edition RF.2009.b.12.)

BarradasArc
Barradas’ ‘Vibrationist’ image from Arc-voltaic

Another volume of avant-garde verse, L’irradiador del port i les gavines (‘The Harbour Light and the Seagulls’), appeared in 1921, and also included a number of visual poems. The poet who showed most clearly contemporary influences from France and Italy was Joaquim Folguera who published Catalan versions of Italian futurist poems and works by Apollinaire in the noucentiste journal La Revista (1917; P.903/309).  Some of these were republished in his posthumous Traduccions i fragments of 1921 (YF.2009.a.11345).

Irradiador
Joan Salvat-Papasseit, L’irradiador del port i les gavines (Barcelona, 1921). YF.2009.a.11418

The early Catalan literary Avant Garde ended with the military coup  of 1923 that imposed the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera and effectively suppressed Catalan nationalism. Dalmau meanwhile continued his work in Barcelona, mounting an exhibition by Picabia in 1922 and Salvador Dalí’s first one-man show in 1925. Miró moved to Paris and Dalí to Madrid, but neither ever severed their links with Catalonia. After the premature deaths of Folguera and Salvat-Papasseit, J.V. Foix remained as the sole major writer of the Catalan avant garde. The author of Gertrudis (1927; 1983 edition YA.1986.a.4647) and KRTU (1932; 1983 edition YA.1987.a.14346), both illustrated by Miró, he also had a key role in the important contemporary journal L’Amic de les arts (Sitges, 1926-29; 2008 facsimile at LF.37.b.135).

Two of the collaborators on L’Amic de les arts were the art critic Sebastià Gasch and the writer Lluís Montanyà.  In 1928, together with Dalí, they produced the most strident of avant-garde manifestos in Catalan, the Manifest antiartístic català, but generally known as the Manifest groc (‘Yellow Manifesto’) because of the colour of its pages. It championed modernity: cinema, jazz, contemporary architecture, photography, motor cars and ocean liners, and contemporary figures: Picasso, Gris, Le Corbusier, Stravinsky, Tzara…  Its targets however were specifically local, for it attacked modern Catalan poetry and music, while venerable cultural institutions such as the music society, the Orfeó Català, were rubbished as old hat, lacking in boldness and invention.

With the advent of the Second Spanish Republic  in 1931, Catalan nationalism and cultural life were revived in the visual arts and architecture. Most prominent among the artistic organisations was ADLAN, Agrupació ‘Amics de l’Art Nou’ (‘Association of Friends of New Art’) which was founded in 1932 and became the major champion of the Avant Garde. Its members included Dalí, Miró, Foix, Gasch, the composer Robert Gerhard, the architect Josep Lluís Sert and other members of the association GATCPAC (Grupo de Arquitectos y Técnicos Catalanes para la Arquitectura Contemporánea). ADLAN mounted three Miró exhibitions, the first Picasso retrospective (1936) and the Exposició logicofobista which included almost all avant-garde Catalan artists. It also organized shows devoted to leading figures of the wider avant garde: Alexander Calder (1933) and both Hans Arp and Man Ray in 1935.  Concerts of contemporary music, especially jazz, cinema showings, poetry readings (by García Lorca, for example) figured in their other activities. In 1934, ADLAN and GATCPAC were responsible for the special issue, devoted to twentieth-century European art, of the classy cultural magazine D’ací i d’allà (ZA.9.d.386). Miró designed the cover and an accompanying pochoir.  All this creative energy and enterprise was crushed by the Fascist uprising of 1936 and the ensuing Spanish Civil War.

Geoff West, Lead Curator Hispanic Studies

This is an edited version of my article in Breaking the Rules. The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937, ed. Stephen Bury (London: the British Library, 2007), pp. 71-73. YC.2008.b.251

You can find out more about the arts in Barcelona at our event  ‘Barcelona Kaleidoscope’, on 27 February.

 

Diamela Eltit: escribir bajo Pinochet

Diamela Eltit opened this term’s Latin American History Seminar series by discussing her life as a writer under the Pinochet dictatorship, which ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. Addressing a packed seminar room at the Latin American Centre, Oxford, Diamela stated that the theme of writing under dictatorship was a challenging one. Writing that takes place in a particular context is just one version of many possibilities, which vary with individual experience.

She spoke of the years leading up to the dictatorship as ones of great social emancipation and cultural revolution, which caused a paradigm shift in attitudes towards women and family. This led to a rethinking of norms surrounding the body, particularly the female body, and sexuality. Traditionally, Chile has always been a conservative society; for example, Chile was the last country in the western world to legalise divorce in 2004, and abortion is still illegal without exception.

Week 1, Diamela Eltit, Escribir bajo Pinochet

These pre-dictatorship years also brought political changes and economic, social and agrarian reforms, particularly during the Frei administration from 1964 onwards. However, as time went on, Frei encountered opposition from the Left, who felt that the reforms were insufficient, and the Right, who felt that they were too excessive. In the 1970 election, Salvador Allende was elected in a presidential runoff, despite only having achieved around 35% of the initial election votes. Diamela discussed the effect of this on notions of power, democracy and majority. Unusually, a minority had power over the majority. This may have caused a greater politicisation of society, as people everywhere discussed political questions. Even everyday activities such as a catching the bus or going to the cinema seemed to be impossible without encountering political discussions. However, Diamela stated that she herself was happy with the political changes and atmosphere of emancipation that pervaded Chile at this time, despite the politicisation of society. For once, the working class had a voice. However, as she herself was not militant she sometimes felt distanced from those who were more radicalised.

Then, in 1973, came the coup. Despite saying that everyone knew there would be a coup, Diamela said that there was still a sense of shock when it happened. She also stressed the economic impetus of the coup, stating that this was a far more powerful reason than the ideological differences cited. From then on, Chileans had to re-learn how to navigate the public space. There was a curfew and mandatory ID requests, as well as other changes in the law. The city became another, and this had a great impact. Diamela remembers tea breaks with colleagues where the only possible topic of conversation was the weather. Any other conversation was simply too dangerous. People felt under pressure to follow a set way of talking, dressing, expressing likes and dislikes. There was a hierarchical militarisation of the country, Pinochet’s “sueño del control total.”  This was the context in which Diamela’s literary career started.

It took Diamela seven years to write her first novel, Lumpérica, published in 1983. She explained that it was difficult to find the right register. By that time, Chile had no cultural spaces, many publishers had closed, and museums were ideologically aligned to the Pinochet government. Added to that, the new phenomenon of the disappeared made for a very bleak panorama.

Selection of books by and about Diamela Eltit, including her first novel, Lumpérica.

Selection of books by and about Diamela Eltit, including her first novel, Lumpérica.

All publications were subject to censorship, so this did have an effect on her writing. It was strange to write under these conditions, as they took away the final responsibility of the author over their work. Passing the censor could also be slightly depressing in some ways; did it show that you simply conformed to the system? However, she stated that although she was aware of the censor she never wrote for the censor. Many newspapers had ceased to circulate, and those still in print had redacted or blank sections. She did find herself wondering about who actually read all of the material submitted. The permission to have her novel published was signed by an Under Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior (equivalent to the Home Office). Who really was the censor?

Although censorship had an undeniable impact on her writing, Diamela explained that it also affected the literary landscape in general. There was no literary market as such, or literary critics, and there was no strong guiding force from publishers. In a way, this gave a freer ideological rein to writers who were not under pressure to write bestsellers or fit in with a particular publishing or literary trend.

During the 1980s there was a sea change, almost a “segundo femenismo”, as more women entered the workplace. This was partly due to men being imprisoned as well as other social difficulties. The literary canon was male-dominated, and Diamela started to think more about what it meant to be a writer, particularly as a woman. Traditionally, women writers had been confined to the domestic sphere. Diamela decided to break free from that, and particularly made the decision not to talk about her family.

A selection of critical works on the writing of Diamela Eltit.

A selection of critical works on the writing of Diamela Eltit.

Whilst learning to live under the dictatorship was hard, so was learning to live without it. In the 1990s she travelled to Mexico as a cultural attaché and worked with political organisations. She spoke of the difficulty of reclaiming words once prohibited, and recalls feeling shocked by the freedom of the press in Mexico after so many years of living with censorship.

At the end of the talk, Diamela was asked whether she wrote as an act of resistance. She answered that it wasn’t, not really; writing for her was more of an exploration of the limits of literature. She felt that she would have become a writer under any circumstances. One audience member asked whether she felt fear during the dictatorship, as she had not mentioned this as a particularly strong factor in her life. Although society was militarised and there were armed police on the streets, she remembers feeling part of a community of artists who opposed the dictatorship, even if they were not militants.

In answer to a question about memory and the continued impact of the dictatorship on society, Diamela remarked on the massive consumerism of neo-liberal Chile in the 1990s as a way of not remembering the past: “el consumo para impedir la memoria.” She herself had always been more interested in the periphery, where there was high inequality, and this is reflected in her literary and artistic activities.

A collection of manuscript and typescript drafts of and notebooks related to Diamela Eltit’s works, personal and work-related correspondence mostly from the mid-1980s to 1990s, and other miscellaneous personal and work-related papers, are held at Princeton University Library. http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/C1457

Resources for Spanish cinema

The 2014 Norman MacColl Symposium, organised by the Spanish and Portuguese Department of Cambridge University and convened by Prof. Brad Epps, was held on the 1st of November at Clare College under the title “Canon, contra-canon y cinefilia: Historias del cine español en un contexto internacional.”

The symposium encouraged debate around key trends and issues of Spanish cinema. The distinctive style of Spanish cinema, deeply rooted in the Spanish tradition of the sainete and the esperpento (the farce and the absurd), gradually evolved to become an open space where popular cinema grew alongside sophisticated styles inspired by Hollywood or Paris. Although Spain’s political isolation under Franco prevented film makers from fully absorbing European new waves, the death of Franco in 1975 saw a burst of creativity and experimentation that placed Spanish cinema back in the international arena.

El cine sonoro en la II República (1929-1936), by Román Gubern.

El cine sonoro en la II República (1929-1936), by Román Gubern.

This year’s MacColl lecturer was Roman Gubern Garriga-Nogués, Emeritus Professor of Audiovisual communication at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Prof. Gubern has been President of the Spanish Association of Film Historians (Asociación Española de Historiadores del Cine). He is also a member of a long list of bodies in the Arts and the Sciences, including the French Association for Research on the History of Cinema (Association Française pour la Recherche sur l´Histoire du Cinéma). Professor Gubern’s work articulates around three different strands: the historiography of cinema, with special emphasis on Spanish cinema; the language of comics, and the theory of image. He has written over 50 books and more than 200 journal articles.

Cambridge University Library holds several leading journals on cinema with good coverage of Spanish film studies. Here are some of the most representative titles:

Studies in Hispanic cinemas, continued by Studies in Spanish & Latin American cinemas

Studies in European cinema

New cinemas

New review of film and television studies

The singularities, vibrancy and diversity of Spanish cinema have attracted interest from researchers worldwide. Spanish cinema has helped broaden the understanding of Spanish social issues and culture. The following journals are a good starting point for researchers of Spanish cinema and popular culture:

Hispanic Research Journal: Iberian and Latin American Studies

Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

The Glynne Parker film history collection at Cambridge contains a small selection of books on Spanish cinema, particularly on Luís Buñuel. For further information, see the related blog post on Buñuel here.

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This post is an edited version of the piece which was first blogged on 28.11.14 by Sonia Morcillo, on the Cambridge University Library blog ‘European languages across borders’. The original version can be read in full here. Many thanks to Sonia for allowing ACLAIIR to repost this material.

ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014 : the report

David Lowe, Head of European Collections at Cambridge University Library welcomed ACLAIIR to Cambridge for the AGM & Seminar 2014. The year has been a good one so far for Cambridge in terms of Spanish and Portuguese collections, with the acquisition of almost 2,000 comedias sueltas from the 17th to 19th centuries, and a gift of approximately 70 titles from the library of film-maker Jonathan Gili, son of the well-known Catalan publisher and translator Joan Gili. The library also received around 400 art books from the library of the late art expert Nigel Glendinning.

In Portuguese, the library has acquired 12 original first editions of Eça de Queirós. You can read more about this collection on the library’s European Collections blog.

The department of Spanish & Portuguese at Cambridge welcomes its first ever lecturer in Brazilian Studies, Dr. Maite Conde, and is pleased to report that enrolment  figures for Portuguese are increasing, with 100 students listed for the academic year 2013-14. Catalan is also on the rise, with the recent appointment of Prof. Brad Epps to Head of Department. Amongst many other areas, Prof. Epps has a strong interest in Catalan literature and film.

In further departmental news, Prof. Alison Sinclair, Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded project ‘Wrongdoing in Spain, 1800-1936’ is due to retire at the end of this academic year. You can find two blog posts which describe some of the pliegos sueltos in more detail on the British Library European Studies blog: ‘Orrible crimes and ghastly murders and Hell hath no fury… : More wrongdoing and further foul deeds in Spain.

OPEN ACCESS: The future of academic publication?

We were pleased to welcome some very knowledgeable speakers to our seminar on Open Access. Our first panel looked at OA from the publishing perspective, with Ellen Collins starting us off with her presentation about the work of OAPEN-UK. Ellen gave details of the ‘matched pairs’ pilot that OAPEN-UK is undertaking in order to try and provide evidence for the impact of OA on publishing models. 45 ‘like pairs’ of books have been identified, with one book in the pair being made available as an open access publication. The idea is gather information about the effect this has on the sale of the book, as there is currently very little evidence available about the impact of making a book open access. The project is focusing on the Humanities and Social Sciences, as these areas tend to use information in a different way to STEM (Science, technology & Medicine) subjects.

OAPEN-UK is working with stakeholders to help them understand the challenges and processes associated with open access publication. There has been a great deal of change over the last 3 to 4 years, and whilst libraries (particularly in academia) are following developments closely, large vendors and commercial suppliers have not been as involved. Problems with Document Rights Management and pricing coupled with a lack of incentive to change have led to inertia in this area. However, Ellen emphasised that this was a good time to try and encourage new processes and workflows in publishing culture that will allow all kinds of stakeholders to embrace open acces publications. There is something of a culture shock; for universities, the cost of publishing an OA book can be high. Quotes range from £150 per chapter to £11,000 per book. There are also issues of prestige tied up with traditional publishing models, and it can be difficult to get all publishers to be transparent about costs.

Whilst the main focus in the UK so far has been on the ‘gold’ route to open access publication, where a fee is paid to make a book available, Ellen hopes that future projects will also look at ‘green’ routes, where scholarly output is made available free of charge through an institutional or other open access repository.

Daniel Pearce, Senior Commissioning Editor for Humanities and Social Sciences journals at Cambridge University Press, stepped up to give the view from a major academic publishing house. CUP publishes around 325 academic journals and over 2,000 books a year in HSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) and STEM subjects, with a 50/50 split of content. OA is certainly a growing area, and CUP are fully committed and engaged with the topic. They offer green, gold and hybrid options, with some content being funded by APCs and others by funding bodies. CUP work closely with learned societes, many of whom are concerned about OA as a potential threat to their journal income. There is some trepidation around approaching open access initiatives, and a feeling that investment in editorial processes is paramount to preserve quality.

Currently CUP has 6 fully gold journals and 208 hybrids, although only 5% of articles published are in HSS subjects. OA is certainly growing however, and CUP are planning to launch more OA journals with two forthcoming in Economics and History of Science. However, gold is not always the answer, and CUP are investigating viable and sustainable green options.

Our final speaker of the first panel was Rupert Gatti, co-founder and the third Director of Open Book Publishers as well as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he is a Director of Studies in Economics. Rupert firmly believes that the future of academic publishing is open access, and asked some searching questions about the role of the publisher in an OA world. He felt that it was important to prevent OA publishing models from revolving around platforms that could be monetised or monopolised. Traditional models were based around restriction, whereas open access models should be about dissemination. Rupert gave some examples of pre-peer review repositories such as arXiv and PubMed Central, post-peer review such as SciELO and DOAJ, and publisher platforms such Public Library of Science (PLoS).

Our second panel focused on the impact of open access on research and teaching from an academic perspective. Martin Eve, Lecturer in the Faculty of Media Humanities and Performance, University of Lincoln, presented an overview of scholarly economics and introduced the Open Library of the Humanities project. Take a look at Martin’s presentation for the full details:

Ernesto Priego, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, is also Editor-in-Chief of The Comics Grid,   an open access, open peer review academic journal dedicated to comics scholarship. He highlighted some of the challenges faced by academics trying to fight the slowness and opacity of peer review processes, particularly early-career researchers or postgraduates. Ernesto also mentioned the researcher-led publisher Ubiquity Press founded at UCL as an open access publisher of peer-reviewed, academic journals. Although access and availability is key, Ernesto also emphasised the importance of appropriate licensing for academic material where one of the main issues is of restrictive terms of resuse.

Closing the session, Jenny Bunn from UCL’s Archives and Records Management programme addressed the topic of MOOCs. She pointed out that although making scholarly resources accessible is good, this alone is not sufficient: users need to be encouraged to engage with the material to really take advantage of open access. This applies to the general public even more so than academics. Jenny noted that the MOOC she ran at UCL, Introduction to Digital Curation, was an open course and participants did not have to be registered students. With 800 people on the course, this created a big problem for access to library resources as many of these are restricted to registered students of UCL.  It can be a real challenge to find accessible material that is truly open. One need look no further than the #icanhazpdf hastag on Twitter to see how academics across the globe are struggling to access the research they need for their work. Jenny echoed some of the earlier speakers when she stated that in some senses we had forgotten the reason we want to publish: to disseminate ideas, in order to share and connect with others. Jenny’s slides are available at the link below.

Jenny Bunn : Open Access Presentation

The seminar was a great forum to discuss these issues surrounding open access, and the question and answer sessions after both panels were lively and engaging. The debate continued at the wine reception and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to all those who participated in a very successful day.

Early Photography in Spain

This post is reblogged with kind permission of the author, and was originally posted on the BL European Studies blog: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/european/2014/06/early-photography-in-spain.html 

The Spanish National Library in Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional de España; BNE) has mounted a small, but representative exhibition drawn from its photographic collections, entitled ‘Fotografía en España (1850-1870)’. In that period, demand for photography grew rapidly as a means of documenting events and of capturing images of landscape, famous buildings, city landmarks, and art works. Photography also became a new medium for portraits of leading contemporary figures and of the family. It was also important for recording infrastructure projects.

Several of the photographers who worked in Spain were foreign. One of them was a Welshman, Charles Clifford (1819-1863), who set up business in Madrid in late 1850. He produced a considerable body of material over a short period of time, including the album Voyages en Espagne (1856), consisting of some 400 images of famous civil and ecclesiastical buildings and monuments.

Spanish Photos (GW) BNE CharlesClifford1
Charles Clifford. Palacio de la Reina, Barcelona (1860).  BNE.

Clifford’s success brought him the patronage of the Queen Isabel II. He recorded some of the construction projects being undertaken in her reign, notably that of the canal which brought a secure supply of fresh water to Madrid and which bears her name.  In fact ‘Canal de Isabel II’ is still the name of the water utility of the Madrid region. He also accompanied the Queen on her royal journeys around Spain.

Another leading photographer, the Frenchman Jean Laurent (1816-1886), began his career in Madrid before Clifford. He too specialised in city views, buildings and monuments, and also in photographing works of art. The BNE exhibition includes his photograph of the Congreso de los Diputados  and also of Velázquez’s Las Meninas.

Spanish Photos (GW) BNE Laurent1
Jean Laurent. Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid (1855-60). BNE.

Both Laurent and Clifford produced images of the Alhambra, considered probably the most picturesque (in the literal sense) site in Spain and an undoubted draw for the growing number of travellers in the second half of the 19th century. Another favourite destination was Santiago de Compostela, and the exhibition includes a photograph of the Pórtico de la Gloria by another British photographer, Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868).

The exhibition includes a number of other subjects. There are portraits, e.g. of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (author of The Three-Cornered Hat), the actress Adelaida Fernández Zapatero and the painter José María Castellanos; a female nude; and various ethnographic scenes.

The British Library does not systematically collect photographs. However, a number of special collections are held. Among these is a relatively little-known collection of photographs of Spain by British photographers. There are 230 photographs by Clifford, gathered in three albums, two of topographical and architectural views and the other of images of armour from the Real Armería  in the Royal Palace in Madrid. It is probable however that some of the photographs contained in this last album were the work of his wife, Jane, although they are generally attributed to Charles Clifford. Jane Clifford was an accomplished photographer in her own right and maintained the studio after Charles’s death. One of the albums of views (shelfmark 1785.c.1) was part of the bequest to the British Museum in 1900 of Henry Spencer Ashbee, the noted collector of works both of Miguel de Cervantes and of erotica.

Spanish Photos (GW) Madrid
Charles Clifford. Calle de Alcalá, Madrid , with the Cibeles fountain (ca. 1857). BL, 1785.c.1, no. 57.

Spanish Photos (GW) Salamanca
Charles Clifford. West door of Salamanca Cathedral (ca. 1858). BL 1704.d.9, no. 65.

The Library also holds 39 photographs by Charles Thurston Thompson, some of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the rest of the monastery church of Santa Maria da Vitória, Batalha, in Portugal. These are held in two albums. Thompson held a post as photographer of art works at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). In 1866 he travelled to France, Spain and Portugal on a photographic expedition on behalf of the Department of Science and Art.

Spanish Photos (GW) Portico 2

Charles Thurston Thompson. Pórtico de la Gloria, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with the statue of the Saint (1866).  BL 1811.a.18, no. 4.

Geoff West, Lead Curator Hispanic Studies, British Library

Bibliography

Lee Fontanella, La historia de la fotografía en España (Madrid, 1981). LB.31.b.6876

Lee Fontanella, Clifford en España. Un fotógrafo en la Corte de Isabel II (Madrid, 1999). LF.31.b.5746

See also the British Library’s historic photographs feature: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/photographicproject/index.html and the  online catalogue of photographs: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/photographs/

– See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/european/2014/06/early-photography-in-spain.html#sthash.Jh6bUPzL.dpuf

Launch of The Cambridge Companion to Jorge Luis Borges

On Wednesday 14 May, a large audience of specialists and non-specialists gathered at the Residence of the Argentine Ambassador in London for a round-table discussion to greet the launch of this recent volume on Jorge Luis Borges. The editor, Edwin Williamson (Oxford) and three of the contributors, Evelyn Fishburn (London), Robin Fiddian (Oxford) and Philip Swanson (Sheffield) were welcomed by the Ambassador, Her Excellency Sra. Alicia Castro.

Borges launch 2

Ambassador Castro opened proceedings with a very personal recollection of Borges and his comments on the fate of the military junta in the wake of the end of the dictatorship in the 1980s. Professor Williamson then introduced the Companion, a work that aims to bring together an international group of Borges scholars to discuss all aspects of the writer’s oeuvre, including stories, poetry and essays, in their historical and biographical context.

The other panellists then spoke about their own contributions to the volume. Evelyn Fishburn assessed religious themes in Borges’ work, including his interest in kabbalah and mysticism. Robin Fiddian presented his recent work on the relationship between post-colonial theory and the Argentine’s cuentos and poems.

Borges launch 3

Philip Swanson continued this insight into the Companion with a presentation on the presence of popular culture in Borges’s writing. Although widely regarded as an erudite writer divorced from the masses and contemporary forms of entertainment, one cannot overlook the importance of film, detective fiction, and tango in the Argentine’s work.

Edwin Williamson then gave a summary of his own chapter in the volume, a periodization of Borges’ literary career with reference to his socio-political engagements. A lively round of questions and answers followed, linking the biographical to the literary, and these exchanges overflowed into informal discussions during the drinks reception.

Borges launch 4

Details of the Companion can be found on the Cambridge University Press website.

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Ben Bollig, St Catherine’s College, Oxford.

All photographs kindly provided by the Argentine Embassy Press Office. 

Travel, culture, language and libraries: Queen Sofia of Spain visits Oxford and London

On Tuesday 29th April, Oxford welcomed Queen Sofia of Spain as part of the 700th anniversary celebrations taking place at Exeter College, of which the Queen is an honorary fellow and patron of a Junior Research Fellowship bearing her name. The King Alfonso XIII Chair of Spanish Studies has also been held at Exeter College since 1927, cementing the link between Oxford University and the study of Spanish language, literature and culture.

Queen Sofia meets Oxford students studying Spanish.

Queen Sofia meets Oxford students studying Spanish. Copyright Matthew Baldwin, Exeter College.

The Queen attended a colloquium at the Taylor Institution, where academics and students spoke about their personal interest in Spanish language and literature as well as their current research. Queen Sofia joined students at Exeter College for lunch, and was later introduced to current and former members of the Sub-Faculty of Spanish and guests at a reception.

Queen Sofia attends a seminar at the Taylor Institution, Oxford.

Queen Sofia attends a seminar at the Taylor Institution, Oxford. Copyright Matthew Baldwin, Exeter College.

The full set of photographs of the Queen’s visit to Oxford is available on the Exeter College Flickr stream. All copyright remains with Matthew Baldwin, Exeter College.

The following day the Queen visited the Cervantes Institute in London to inaugurate the new library which will bear her name.  Take at look at the video of her visit, courtesy of the Instituto Cervantes London (link below)

Queen Sofia inaugurates the Library at the Instituto Cervantes, London (VIDEO)

The Reina Sofia Library was inaugurated on the 30th of April 2014 at the Instituto Cervantes in London by Queen Sofia of Spain with the presence of the Director of the Instituto Cervantes D. Victor García de la Concha, the Spanish Ambassador in the UK, Dr. Federico Trillo Figueroa, The Director of the Instituto Cervantes in London, D. Julio Crespo Mac Lennan and the, Ministry of Culture, José María Lasalle.

In his speech, the Ambassador stated that “it is especially appropriate that the library of the Instituto Cervantes in London should take her name as the Reina Sofía library. It is above all a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of the support that both Her Majesty and the rest of the Royal Family have given the Instituto Cervantes and Spanish culture in general”.

The Director of the Instituto Cervantes, Victor García de La Concha stated that “it is tradition that libraries of the Cervantes Institutes are named after a famous writer or a prominent figure in the culture of the Spanish-speaking world. The New York one is dedicated to Jorge Luis Borges, the one in Paris to Octavio Paz, the one in Berlin to Mario Vargas Llosa, and the one in Manchester has the privilege of being named after Jorge Edwards. In the case of London, as one of the leading Instituto Cervantes centres, we considered that the library should be called the Reina Sofia Library in recognition of the continuing, tireless and vital support that Your Majesty lends to our culture. In recognition too of your support for the Instituto Cervantes itself, where you have participated in many events that have been held in the Institute’s branches and Aulas Cervantes across 43 countries and have presided over the inauguration of the Juan Carlos Onetti Library in Athens. Your Majesty, it is a great honour that you are pleased to grant that this library should bear your name”.

Queen Sofia address the gathering at the Instituto Cervantes, London.

Queen Sofia address the gathering at the Instituto Cervantes, London.

After the Inaugural Unveiling of the Plaque, Her Majesty addressed the guests and declared that she felt very honoured and delighted that this wonderful library would be named after her.

Following the speeches in the library, Her Majesty inaugurated the exhibition of travel books on Spain written between the XVIII and the XX Century, one of the special collections that the library has. These books can be also found in a virtual exhibition in the Centro Virtual Cervantes. This project was launched in Madrid on 12th October 2013 in collaboration with Google.

Although royal visits still generate excitement and interest, it’s interesting to compare our modern reception of these to those in the early 20th century. The Spanish royal visit of August 1926 occasioned the publication of a special Spanish Supplement in The Times (viewable by readers with access to the Times Digital Archive), with articles about Spanish trade, history, famous sights, food and even a column about the national character by Aubrey Bell. This focus on Spain must in part be attributed to the presence of Victoria Eugenie, Queen Victoria’s grand-daughter and Queen Consort of Spain as the wife of King of Spain Alfonso XIII.

The Times 'Spanish Number' 10 August 1926, celebrating the visit of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie.

The Times ‘Spanish Number’ 10 August 1926, celebrating the visit of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie.

If the content of the newspaper piques your curiosity, you might also be interested in a forthcoming conference at the British Library on 30 May, Beyond the Black Legend: Spain through British Eyes, 1898-1936. The conference explores the extraordinary transformation in British knowledge about Spain and Spanish culture that took place between 1898 and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Changes in travel, publishing and education meant that ordinary British people had unprecedented opportunities to tour the country and learn its language. Hopefully our continued interest in the Hispanic world will ensure that people continue to study and engage with Spanish language and culture for many years to come.

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by Joanne Edwards, Subject Librarian for Hispanic Studies, Taylor Institution Library, Oxford, and Mayte Azorín, Head Librarian, Instituto Cervantes London