Friday, January 03, 2014

1914 And All That: The Pollensa School

No explanation is needed as to why the year 2014 marks a very important centenary. But while 1914 and the start of the Great War will be commemorated in various countries, in Spain there is less reason to: the country was of course neutral. Though Spain stayed out of the war, there were enormous internal tensions. Political violence was on the increase, led to no small extent by the followers of Antoni Maura, the Mallorcan who was Spanish prime minister on various occasions. The "Maurists" were to prove to be something of a precursor to the Falange, formed in 1933 by the son of the first dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera.

The war and the tensions left Mallorca relatively untouched. Its idyllic isolation was a contributory factor which made 1914 a year of importance for a very different reason to war. It was the year that art really made its mark on the island. It was the year when the Pollensa School was founded.

The Argentinian painter Francisco Bernareggi, reflecting on his time in Mallorca, said in 1949: "That landscape in Mallorca is extraordinary. You cannot imagine anything like it. Olive trees shade the beach, such as the one of the Cala de Tuent, and fishermen's boats are moored from their trunks. These are trees from the time of the Apostles. Its landscape is poetic, pictorial and musical."

The Tramuntana mountains and the coves like that of Tuent were what helped to attract painters to Mallorca. Prior to the establishment of the Pollensa School, two painters from Barcelona, Santiago Rusiñol and Joaquim Mir, had come to Mallorca; the first time was in 1893. They stayed in Pollensa and Cala San Vicente as well as in Sa Calobra, Palma and Valldemossa. Rusiñol it was who was instrumental in another painter from Barcelona, Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa, coming to the island. It was Camarasa and the Argentinian Tito Cittadini who were to create the "school" in 1914.

Though the Pollensa School became the most important artistic movement on the island, a Deyá School had been formed some years earlier. Bernareggi was one of this group. So Mallorca had been gaining a reputation during the early years of the twentieth century, and for painters who were predominantly based in Paris, like Camarasa, Mallorca offered a location well away from the gathering turmoil in Europe. It was tranquil, it was isolated, it was beautiful, it was idyllic. It was a painters' paradise. Removed from the horrors of war, Mallorca was paradise and utopia and the Pollensa School was its pictorial chronicler.

It can't be underestimated how important this artistic movement was not only to the world of art. In the history of the Fomento del Turismo (the Mallorca Tourist Board), which was nine years old at the outbreak of war, art played a very significant role in the development of tourism. The war meant that there was little by way of tourism, but the output of what became known as the Pollensa School and the "American artists" was extremely useful to the tourist board in spreading the name of Mallorca. The school was doubly important in this regard because the war meant that the island was deprived of the person who had been, up to this point, the prime promoter of Mallorca, the honorary president of the tourist board Archduke Luis Salvador, who was recalled to Prague (and indeed died in 1915).

These American artists were central and southern Americans. In addition to Cittadini, there was, for example, the Mexican Roberto Montenegro and yet another Argentinian, Roberto Ramaugé. These two had close links with, respectively, Puerto Pollensa and Formentor. Montenegro stayed at the Hotel Miramar, which had opened in 1912, and mainly paid by donating paintings to the hotel. Ramaugé bought the Punta Avançada on the Formentor promontory, and with it came Sa Fortalesa, which became a base for all manner of artists. As well as Camarasa, Cittadini, Rusiñol and Mir, visitors included the Argentinian poet Adan Diehl, and he was to be behind the Hotel Formentor, which opened its doors in 1929. Another visitor to Sa Fortalesa was the Spanish classical guitarist, Andrés Segovia.

Rather like the Archduke, who had invited various intellectuals, artists, scientists and others to the Miramar in Valldemossa in the nineteenth century, so Ramaugé and his fellow artists created a centre of artistic excellence in Pollensa. The founding of the "school" by Camarasa and Cittadini in 1914 had been the impetus behind this and behind also an artistic and cultural tradition that Pollensa has enjoyed ever since. 1914 was an important year therefore, the year when the Pollensa School started, though the actual title of the Pollensa School was not, or so it would appear, coined until 1916. It was a journalist called Pedro Ferrer, who had a close relationship with Camarasa, Montenegro and others, who seemingly first used it in a book published in Barcelona which was called, oddly enough, "Flirt".

Photo: Mountain by Hermen Anglada Camarasa.

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