ZULOAGA ZABALETA, Ignacio
(Eibar, Gipuzkoa, 1870 -  Madrid, 1945)
Painting. París, Segovia, Zumaia (Gipuzkoa), Madrid


Ignacio Zuloaga was born in Eibar on 26 July 1870. His first art teacher was his father
Plácido Zuloaga, a damascener and an expert draughtsman who first took him to the Prado, where
he came into contact with Spanish old masters and worked as a copyist.
In 1889 he travelled to Rome to further his studies and subsequently moved to Paris, where he
attended the Free Academy of Art run by Henri Gervex and studied under Eugène Carrière at La
Palette art school. He made the acquaintance of Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse-
Lautrec, and struck up close friendships with some of the Basque and Catalan artists working
in the city, such as Pablo Uranga, Francisco Durrio and Santiago Rusiñol, with whom he would
travel through Italy in 1894. From that moment on he would become a tireless traveller,
visiting London, Eibar and Andalusia among other places.
He spent long sojourns in Segovia with his uncle, the potter Daniel Zuloaga, and in Seville,
where he was attracted to Castilian types and gypsies, often using them as models. His
interest in the world of bullfighting led him to take lessons and he was even engaged in a few
actual bullfights. By the time he returned to Paris in the late eighteen nineties he had
established a solid artistic reputation for himself at the various salons and expositions he
took part in, both in Spain and abroad.
In 1899 he married Valentine Dethomas and the couple settled in Madrid, although he would
continue to travel to fulfil his international engagements, coming into contact with a number
of other artists—his social circle included such names as Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Miguel
Unamuno, Ramiro de Maeztu, Azorín, and Ortega y Gasset, members of the Generation of '98
literary movement, and he became close friends with Auguste Rodin.
As his oeuvre evolved, Zuloaga's palette began to darken and his expressive compositions
showed a preference for chiaroscuro and impasto. As he himself stated, his painting sought to
portray character types. His depictions of majas, dwarves and bullfighters which coincided
with those portrayed by the members of the Generation of '98, and his Expressionist landscapes
that followed in the tradition of those by Velázquez, Goya and El Greco, made him the emissary
of Spanish painting in Europe.
In 1909 he held his first exhibition in America, staged by the Hispanic Society in New York,
to critical and public acclaim; a great number of his works were sold at the venue, he began
to receive commissions to portray important and wealthy figures from American society and went
to take part in several other group shows. His social and economic standing enabled him to
purchase the house in which Francisco de Goya had been born in Fuendetodos (Saragossa) and
Pedraza Castle (Segovia), before settling in the house in Zumaia (Gipuzkoa) that is now a
museum. At the end of World War One he embarked on another tour of the United States, which
led to his definitive recognition in America.
Ignacio Zuloaga began to receive awards and distinctions that made him one of the most famous
and significant artists of his age. In 1926 King Alfonso XIII opened his first official
exhibition in Spain at Madrid's Palace of Fine Arts and in 1931 he was appointed president of
the Board of Trustees of the city's Museo de Arte Moderno. No longer dependent on commissions
to make his living, he was able to devote himself more intensely to depicting friends and
relatives in a more intimate style, exploring other genres he had barely touched upon, such as
landscape and still life. He was living in Santiago Etxea, the house he had built in Zumaia,
when the Spanish Civil War broke out, absorbed in his painting. Later on, however, as a result
of the changes in art that followed the outbreak of World War Two his oeuvre began to fall
into neglect, for tastes had moved on from the traditional Spanish style of painting he
practiced.
Ignacio Zuloaga passed away in his atelier in Madrid on 31 October 1945.