75. Eugenio Lucas Velázquez

Madrid 1817 – 1870 Madrid

Dunes, c. 1850

Trained at the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez was an atypical artistic figure and a tireless draughtsman. This landscape, depicting a dune overrun with wild vegetation, belongs to a well-defined group – doubtless the most astonishing within the artist’s graphic production – known as the manchas (spots). These sheets, more than any other aspect of his work, represented a training ground for Lucas. They form a highly homogeneous set of particularly boldly drawn brown or grey washes, occasionally heightened with watercolour. The great number of them illustrates Lucas’ teeming creativity and the outstanding role of this practice in his graphic production.

The manchas were done purely for the artist’s own enjoyment, and are disconnected from any project for a painting. The technique Lucas used to produce them is based on one developed by Alexander Cozens (1717-1786) and explained in his book A New Method of Assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape (1785-1786). Cozens recommended composing landscapes with large blots of wash or watercolour placed haphazardly by letting the brush drip1 onto the paper, then projecting them in order to construct an imaginary view. Breaking radically with the classical landscape art tradition, this method is based on intuition and the human mind’s innate capacity to interpret; to form recognisable motifs in seemingly shapeless masses. In this way our sheet focuses essentially on seeking suggestive effects that describe the scrub-covered dunes with great visual power. The artist plays with an almost dry brush that catches on the paper’s grain to swiftly spread the drops of wash. The shapes appear dissolved in splashes and reduced to dynamics. They make sense only through the spared white areas which insure the understanding of the subject and organise the design by forming a diagonal. An authentic gateway into the imaginary, this technique anticipates Abstraction, and is also related in a way to the automatic drawing which the Surrealists held so dear. It was utilised by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)2, then felicitously by Victor Hugo (1802-1885),3 whom Lucas met in Madrid.4 His manchas, paragons of creative freedom, fully situate the artist in the Romantic generation.

Artists from Iberia are still scarcely represented in the Fondation Custodia’s collections. The acquisition of this drawing in 2010 brings the number of Spanish drawings it holds to nine, and represents an important addition to this small corpus. MNG

1Or even, in Lucas’s instance, a rag impregnated with wash; see Carlos Sánchez Díez in Carmen Espinosa Martín (ed.), Eugenio Lucas Velázquez. Eugenio Lucas Villamil. Colección Lázaro, exh. cat., Segovia (Torreón de Lozoya), 2012, p. 110.

2For instance, in a drawing (c. 1810-1814) preserved in Madrid, Museo del Prado, inv. no. Do4355 verso (brown wash, over black pencil, pen and brown ink, on laid paper; 181 × 218 mm); see J. Bordes, J.M. Matilla and S. Balsells, Goya: cronista de todas las guerras : los Desastres y la fotografía de guerra, exh. cat., Las Palmas De Gran Canaria (Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno) and Madrid (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) 2009, p. 110; and https://www.museodelprado.es/coleccion.

3As for example in a drawing with brown wash spread with the barbs of a feather, annotated “Toujours en ramenant la plume” (“Always drawing back the feather”), 1856, in an album preserved in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Manuscripts, inv. no. NAF 13351, fol. 19 (brown wash; approx. 320 × 500 mm); see http://expositions.bnf.fr/hugo/grand/152.htm.

4José Manuel Arnaiz in Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-1870). Dibujos y pinturas de un visionario, exh. cat., Barcelona (Artur Ramon Col-leccionisme) and Madrid (Jorge Juan Galería de Arte) 2002, pp. 5-6.