Niños y plantas (Children and Plants)

Ángeles Santos

Portbou, Girona, Spain, 1911 - Madrid, Spain, 2013
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    141 x 126 cm
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  • Entry date: 
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  • Long-term loan of Julián Grau Santos Collection, 2013

Juan Ramón Jiménez, one of the intellectuals profoundly impressed by Un mundo (A World, 1929) by Ángeles Santos, described his impressions of the painter as follows in his book Españoles de tres mundos. Viejo mundo, nuevo mundo, otro mundo. Caricatura lírica (1914-1940) (Spaniards from Three Worlds: Old World, New World, Other World. Lyrical Caricature [1914–1940]): “One approaches a painting with curiosity and looks with one eye and sees Ángeles Santos running grey and barefoot on the riverbank. She puts green leaves on her eyes, throws water at the sun, coal at the moon. She flees, comes, goes. Suddenly, her eyes are placed on the eyes of the masks stuck to our own. And she looks, we look at her. She looks without knowing at whom. We look at her. She looks.” In this passage, the poet masterfully captures the essence of the artist’s compositions: the mystery and magic emanating from most of the scenes painted by Santos from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. In Niños y plantas (Children and Plants, 1930), two figures gaze out at the viewer, a completely naked boy and a girl who, unlike the boy, is clothed. In their hands, a branch and a flower seem to emerge as an extension of their extremities, the size of which has been deliberately exaggerated by the painter. In her own words, she painted them “with enormous hands and feet, because I wanted them to be like trees and plants”. In this unsettling composition, whose female model is a beggar whom Santos also depicts in another of her paintings, the sexual symbolism seems clear. This caused a huge scandal in Valladolid, as the two young people were not clothed while posing. Once again, as on other occasions associated with her creations from this period, the painter is caught up in the constant contradictions produced by her desire for modernity in contrast with the provincial environment in which her day-to-day life took place. All of this would come to a head in the well-known episode of her confinement to a sanatorium, at her family’s insistence, due to what her biographers have called a “crisis of personality”.

Paloma Esteban Leal