Re-inventing Spain : images of the nation in painting and propaganda, 1936-1943 / by Miriam Basilio.
This thesis examines competing images of the Spanish nation elaborated by artists, art historiaras and propagandists in their attempts to mobilize sectors of the population and legitimate their political agendas between 1936 and 1943. The Republican government, the Nationalists (a coalition led by General Francisco Franco which rose up in arms), and political factions within both camps sought to establish definitions of a “true Spain” and a “Spanish tradition” that selectively recontextualized and reinterpreted elements of Spanish history. Although recent histories of the Spanish Civil War have demonstrated that the Republican and Nationalist camps were not ideologically monolithic, the effects of these internal divisions as well as regional differences on the visual arts and propaganda have until now not been studied in an in-depth, comparative framework. I examine paintings, propaganda posters, graphic portfolios, illustrated books and pamphlets, interpreting these in relation to contemporary art historical texts and exhibition reviews. I make extensive use of periodicals and archival materials related to the organization of exhibitions, propaganda and cultural preservation campaigns. Chapter 1 traces references to Spanish history and visual traditions employed by right- and left-wing parties in the 1936 electoral campaign that set the stage for the imagery discussed in subsequent chapters. The use of nationalist rhetoric, historical parallels and the appropriation of Spanish art history in Republican propaganda are examined. In Chapter 2, works in the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World's Fair initiate a discussion of debates within the Republic related to realism, Popular Front imagery, and regionalist nationalism. In Chapter 3, two exhibitions organized by the Nationalist government abroad—José María Sert's altarpiece at the Vatican Pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair and the Spanish Pavilion at the 1938 Venice Biennial—lead to an analysis of images of the nation, stylistic models and their uses in portraits of Franco. Chapter 4 examines post-war exhibitions designed to legitimize official versions of the Spanish art-historical tradition, and the ruins of the Alcazar of Toledo as a case study of the uses of national history to promote the new regime.
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