Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez
Seville, 1860 - Madrid, 1938
Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez was born in Seville on 27 May 1860. After obtaining his law degree (1880), he studied painting under Francisco and Pedro Vega. He then toured and painted in Italy, visiting Naples, Venice and Rome. After a brief stay in Seville, during which he joined the Free Academy of Fine Arts, he travelled to Paris in 1883 and later to Morocco. He visited Tangiers and Tétouan with the Malaga painter Andrés Parladé and painted neo-Romantic Orientalist themes. Thereafter he travelled incessantly around Europe and America, where he painted, exhibited and sold his works. In 1893 he was appointed a member of the Seville Academy of Fine Arts and eight years later was appointed president of the Athenaeum, as well as a lecturer at the city’s School of Arts, Industries and Fine Arts, where he took over from Jiménez Aranda in 1903. The following year he married a young woman of French origin, Marie Roy Lhardy, in Madrid. He studied and copied the great masters at the Prado, especially Velázquez, who was his source of inspiration. This spurred his transition from an impressionistic to a fully luminarist technique.
Bilbao Martínez’s artistic successes were unceasing and his career reached its peak in 1915 with the painting Las cigarreras en la Fábrica de Tabacos de Sevilla (“Cigarette Girls at the Seville Tobacco Manufactory”), which marked the zenith of a brilliant iconographic series on social and genre themes. The 1920s saw many prizes and rewards: he became professor of drawing after the antique and from life and was appointed artistic delegate of the Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville in 1929. In 1935 he was elected a member of the San Fernando Royal Academy and awarded honours and distinctions for his long career: the cross of Alfonso XII and the grand cross of Isabella the Catholic, as well as being made a commander of the order of Carlos III, a commander of the French Legion of Honour and an officer of the Crown of Belgium, among others.
He died on 4 December 1938 while Madrid was under siege.
Gerardo Pérez Calero