Gibraltar, 1872 - Seville, 1971
Gustavo Carlos Bacarisas Podestá was born in Gibraltar into a large family and was the eldest of three siblings. His parents, Gabriel and Adela, were also Gibraltarians and the fact that his father exercised the profession of painter probably had a bearing on his future career. Gustavo spent his childhood and early education in an English-speaking environment, as he was taught by the Christian Brothers of Ireland.
In 1892, at the age of twenty-five, Bacarisas went to Rome to further his studies at the school of the Academy of Fine Arts, where his fellow students were Eduardo Chicharro, Álvarez Sotomayor and Nicanor Piñole, among others. During his first stay in Italy, which lasted until 1906, Bacarisas toured the country and made his first trips to Paris and London, cities where he resided alternately from the first years of the 20th century onwards; in the English capital he was invited by the Art Society to show his works at the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition. During those years he came into contact with different artists, among them Whistler, who was then living in Paris.
In 1910 he travelled to Buenos Aires at the invitation of the Galería Philipon and struck up friendships with several artists. His portrait of the architect Martín S. Noel dates from that year. Although Bacarisas was appointed an instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts, his teaching duties did not prevent him continuing to paint or from travelling to the United States, where he showed his work in different cities such as New York and Philadelphia.
In 1913 Bacarisas arrived in Seville, where he soon received commissions from the Laffite family who owned the “Los Remedios” ceramic manufactory and even provided him with a studio in which to work on designs for ceramic murals, a field to which he devoted much of his life. In 1915 he took part in the National Exhibition in Madrid and around 1918 became a member of the fine arts section of Seville Athenaeum. He travelled around Andalusia, staying in the city of Granada for a time. In 1921 he exhibited his works in Madrid and is mentioned in the prologue of the catalogue by José Ortega y Gasset.
Years later he travelled to Stockholm as a decorator and costume designer for the opera Carmen (while in Sweden he met his future wife, Elsa). He again worked as decorator and set designer for Coppelia, directed by Charles Cocharan at the London Trocadero, and for the performance of Falla’s Amor brujo directed by Antonio Mercé at the Paris Opera in 1928. His work and involvement in the Ibero-American Fair held in Seville in 1929 were of paramount importance; he designed the sets for the Royal Pavilion and for those of Argentina, as well as the official poster of the event. As a resident of Seville, he witnessed the proclamation of the Republic first-hand. During these years he travelled extensively all over Spain, particularly Castile, as well as making trips to the mountains of Huelva, specifically the towns of Aracena and Alhajar.
When the Civil War broke out Bacarisas and his wife, being English, were evacuated to France and from there travelled to Gibraltar. He returned to Seville for good in 1945, but continued to make long trips. In 1961 he was appointed a member of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts and five years later the Seville Athenaeum awarded him a gold medal. Bacarisas died in his Seville home at the age of ninety-nine.
Fernando Martín Martín