Grensoverschrijdende inspiratie

RKD STUDIES

6.4 Marius Bauer

In 1902 Bauer went to Spain on his honeymoon with Jo Stumpff, one of the women artists known as the Amsterdamse Joffers. Four years later, in 1906, the couple returned to the country. Bauer would rather have gone on to Cairo but lacked the funds – a frequent obstacle to his travel plans. Spain was a convenient alternative for him; it showed some Oriental influences, but its proximity made it more affordable. The country, he wrote, was ‘no Benares or Baroda [cities in India – RS], but beautiful all the same’.1

Bauer visited the Prado and wrote approvingly about what he saw there, but with much less enthusiasm than Van Looy or Israëls. Since he generally depicted buildings and landscapes, there had been less reason to expect that he would be inspired by the Spanish masters, who were most noteworthy for their figure pieces. His main interest was in architecture, particularly the country’s cathedrals – cathedrals being his favourite subjects for paintings and drawings. There are four known sketchbooks from Bauer’s time in Spain.2 In his sketches of cathedrals and other buildings, his attention to ornament and decoration is immediately striking. A sketch of the Alcázar of Seville, for instance, focuses on the Oriental chandelier and the arches extending toward the background. The low point of view in the drawing makes the interior look monumental, and the clutches of people seated on the floor are dwarfed by the tall building. Given that the Alcázar was a palace open to tourists, Bauer probably dreamed up these men in long robes to create an Oriental atmosphere. His notes on the colours show that he considered turning this sketch into a painting or watercolour. In any case, Bauer made remarkably many paintings and large watercolours after returning from his first trip.

The exotic aspects of Spain that had sparked Van Looy’s enthusiasm, such as the Alhambra and the gypsy village, held no charm for Bauer. ‘There’s also a camp of gypsies here, living in mountain caves. But I don’t believe it’s anything more than show. Their costumes may well be provided by a costumier for the opera.’3 One possible explanation for this sceptical attitude is that he had seen relatively unspoilt areas of the Orient during his previous travels.

More than from Spanish stereotypes, Bauer drew artistic inspiration from his own imagination, which was nourished by the country’s literary tradition. During earlier trips to Oriental countries, he had spotted many characters from the Thousand and One Nights, such as Aladdin and Ali Baba, and in Spain he was often reminded of Don Quixote. Bauer had been fascinated with the Middle Ages since the 1890s; in 1892 he had made ten lithographs illustrating the chivalric romance Carel ende Elegast. This fascination extended to the Spanish tradition of chivalric romances, and many knights appear in the sketchbooks he kept during his travels and the paintings he made afterwards.


Notes

1 ‘geen Benares of Baroda maar toch ook mooi’. Letter from Marius Bauer to Maurits Wagenvoort, Aerdenhout, 24 September 1906, Hague City Archives, Other Collections 2 (OV2), Schildersbrieven (‘Painters’ letters’).

2 All four sketchbooks are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

3 ‘Er is hier ook een kamp van zigeuners die in bergholen leven. Maar ik geloof niet dat ’t iets anders is dan comedie en worden de costuums misschien wel geleverd door een costumier van de opera.’ Letter from Marius Bauer and Jo Stumpff to an unknown recipient, Granada, 29 August 1902, Marius Bauer collection, RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague.

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