Renowned as a master of colour and often compared to the Venetian masters, the painter, who was raised in Barcelona after the family returned to Spain, was also deeply influenced by his Spanish heritage, as well as the late nineteenth century’s Symbolism movement, and more specifically Gustave Moreau with his numerous references to Greek or Egyptian aesthetics.
The mysterious beauty of the models is magnified by an incredibly rich chromatic palette exploring all the nuances of the night, to create a unique and inimitable atmosphere.
The exhibition includes the famously controversial nude ‘Salome’, painted in Paris in 1918, and later refused in a Salon in London due to its highly erotic charge – the painting was then rehung after intervention of powerful patrons and friends of the painter, and attracted over 17,000 visitors. The pose is unusually daring for the time, and actually not that far, should we zoom in, from another famous revolutionary painting that attracted even more outcry the century before, ‘L’Origine du Monde’ by Gustave Courbet.
After his move to Paris and huge success within the French art world, Beltrán-Masses’ fame reached the United States and he soon made decisive acquaintances in Hollywood, then in its golden age. Several portraits of key Hollywood figures, from Joan Crawford to Rudolf Valentino to Douglas Fairbanks Jr., are part of the exhibition.
Beltran-Masses’ work includes many references to music and dance, when not the central subject itself. The exhibition also features portraits of Ballet Russe dancer Alicia Nikitina and innovative Spanish dancer Carmen Tórtola Valencia as the Maja Maldita.
After being an eminent member of the most prestigious academies and receiving many public honours, Federico Beltrán-Masses’ name was almost completely forgotten when the public taste embraced abstraction. However, three recent major exhibitions in Spain brought the painter’s wonderful artworks back to life – and most importantly to the public attention, to our great delight. The exhibition at Stair Sainty Gallery offers the perfect opportunity to reintroduce Federico Beltrán-Masses to the public – and to the international market.
Stair Sainty Gallery, 38 Dover Street, London W1S 4NL
Opening times: Monday – Friday 10am to 6pm or by appointment + 44 (0) 20 7493 4542