Rafael Romero Barros

Moguer, 1832 – Córdoba, 1895

Paisaje con Escena Bíblica y ruinas
Oil on canvas
69.5 x 102 cm.

Signed and dated: “Rafael Romero, 1861”
Provenance: Spain, private collection

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Rafael Romero Barros was the father of the painter Julio Romero de Torres; Rafael studied at the University of Seville where he gained a solid understanding of humanistic knowledge, studying Latinity and philosophy from 1844 to 1847. As a painter he began his apprenticeship with the Sevillian landscape painter Manuel Barrón, alongside the Valeriano and Gustavo Bécquer brothers. When he turned thirty years old he went to Cordoba where he was assigned to direct the Provincial Museum of Painting, which was an important operational centre for a vast amount of different activities destined to cultural promotion at the time. He founded the School of Music and the Provincial School of Fine Arts in the same city.

His exquisite training and great sensitivity, with which he approached painting, led him to be interested by many different forms of artistic expression, from Roman and Muslim archaeology, to the latest exhibitions of his contemporaries. He published numerous articles in newspapers and in several specialized magazines.

On top of being an art critic and archaeologist, he was also the director of the Archaeological Museum, where he was entrusted to enrich its collections. Thanks to his efforts, the Synagogue of Cordoba and many other monuments were preserved, for which he was appointed member of the provincial Commission of Monuments and emeritus partner of the Archaeological Society of Barcelona.

He held a number of impressive positions and received various awards which can be considered as an indication of a life dedicated to the promotion of history and the arts: he was Academic at Academia San Fernando, and also of the Academy of History, the Academy of Sciences, Fine Arts and Noble Arts at Cordoba and at the Economic Society of Cordoba. His high cultural level, together with his connection to the social reality, led him to take an active part in the Cordoban Workers’ Association, of which he was Secretary until his death.

Perhaps what stands out the most is Romero Barros’s activity as a teacher to many artists: he trained a whole generation of artists at the School of Fine Arts of Cordoba that renewed its artistic context, elevating it through the use of Realism and Post-Romantic trends. He taught his own children Rafael, Enrique and Julio Romero de Torres, and also taught Mateo Inurria, Hidalgo de Caviedes, Villegas Brieva, Muñoz Lucena, Juan Montis, Serrano Pérez, and a large list of 11 goldsmiths and artisans who experienced a renaissance in their noble crafts after receiving the treasured humanist and encyclopaedic knowledge by Romero Barros.

He painted a Portrait of Queen María de Las Mercedes for the guild of Cordoban silversmiths, which was gave to the Queen as a present. Romero Barros identified very gifted people among his students, since he also experienced a desire for excellence in all painting genres that he used to develop: portraits, interiors, still-life and landscape paintings.

It is almost incomprehensible how he was able to cover such a broad-range of cultural activity without ever losing sight of his main focus,  the painting. He participated in the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations at London with the still – life Bowl with fruits in 1862; he also took part in the Cordoban Casino Exhibition in 1874 with the work Four Countries, and in 1876 he exhibited the work Cercanías de la Huerta de Morales in the Sierra de Córdoba and A Pond at the National Fine Arts Exhibition. He exhibited A Souvenir of Africa at the Jaen Exhibition.

His painting began to evolve from the Historicism towards a Post-Romantic that would soon lead him to social Realism, and to regionalist Luminism.

The beautiful Landscape with a biblical scene and ruins exhibited here is a beautiful example of Romero Barros’s, with techniques which can be clearly linked to neo-classicism where the artist demonstrates his broad academic background and extensive knowledge of antiquity, clear through his historically accurate representation of the characters’ clothing as well as the architectural and landscape details which acts as a special stage for placing the scene within an exotic environment, which is also undoubtedly a purely romantic tool. The numerous characters are placed carefully throughout the composition, distributing the action in different areas of the scene, and thus forcing the viewer to move their eyes along the canvas, which allows to enjoy all the precious details of the landscape.

Far from being considered as a mere backdrop, there is a sunny and cheerful landscape, undoubtedly separate from the drama of the scene, which is what receives the most attention in the painting. The painter has smartly distributed the landscape in different planes, using the aerial perspective masterfully to obtain the impression of depth: in the foreground there are the ruins of a bridge to the left and trees to the right; in the next plane, the ruins of a Corinthian temple with palm trees and, in the background, in a third plane, after another temple, a town can be distinguished. On the last plane the spectator can glimpses blue mountains, thus completing the sensation of depth.

Bibliography:

QUESADA, L. The daily life in Andalusian painting. Seville, (1992)