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    José Arpa (Spanish/American, 1858-1952)
    Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, circa 1925
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 24 inches (50.8 x 61.0 cm)
    Titled on the stretcher: Bright Angel Trail - Grand Canyon 6
    José Arpa y Perea (1858-1952) opened a studio in San Antonio around 1901 and became an important part of the San Antonio school. Born in Carmona, the son of a cobbler, Arpa began studying part-time at the Academia des Bellas Artes (Academy of Fine Arts) in Seville, Spain, in 1868. He became a full-time student by 1876, and from 1882 to 1886 painted in Rome. Returning to Spain in 1886, Arpa sent paintings as part of the Spanish contingent for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where Impressionism was all the rage. He traveled to San Antonio, Texas, in 1899, and exhibited in the San Antonio International Fair in 1900. Arpa met Robert and Julian Onderdonk and divided his time between Mexico, Spain, and San Antonio until 1923, when he founded a painting school in San Antonio. Arpa continued to exhibit frequently at museums and galleries throughout Texas as well as New York and Spain. He won the "Texas Prize" at the Texas Wildflower Exhibition in 1927, and exhibited in the remaining two "Davis Competitions" in 1928 and 1929. Arpa permanently returned to Spain in 1931.

    The leading Arpa scholar, Carmen Rodríguez Serrano of the Universidad de Sevilla, places him with the "School of Alcalá," a group "of painters who met around 1890 around the figure of Emilio Sánchez Perrier, to paint en plein air along the Guadaira River and la Vega of Carmona, in the province of Sevilla." Serrano acknowledges that Arpa was already experimenting with plein air painting in Spain after his return from Rome in 1886. The Alcalá painters became known as the "Spanish Barbizon" and its members included Manuel García Rodríguez, José Lafita and José Rico Cejudo, among others."

    Arpa continued to paint en plein air after he relocated to Mexico in 1899 where he depicted the tropical Veracruzano landscape near Puebla and Xalisco, as well as the arid landscape in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Unlike the pot-boiler bluebonnet painting so prevalent in Texas art today, this "sunshine man" made each depiction unique, often in subtle ways. A signature element was the abrupt change of direction of a branch or a broken branch on a lone live oak stranded in a sea of bluebonnets. Or, as seen in Atascosa Bluebonnets circa 1926, a broken tree trunk amongst a copse of trees surrounded by bluebonnets.

    Arpa further embraced French Impressionist tenets through his consistent use of a strong diagonal orientation of the horizon line and off-balance compositions in his wildflower landscapes. These "plunging perspectives" and "asymmetrical juxtapositions" influenced by photography and Japanese prints affected the French Impressionists, then filtered down to Spain, and through Arpa to Texas. In Atascosa Bluebonnets circa 1926, the dramatic angle to the horizon line as well as the dramatic angles of the middle-ground trees creates tension with the diagonal of the faint footpath in the left foreground. This painting also exhibits what this writer refers to as the "Arpa smear": a dragging of the brush across the middle ground to give the "impression" of massed wildflower color, thus eliminating the need for the "comma like" brushstrokes characteristic of French Impressionism, seen in the foreground. Finally, Arpa's strategic use of heavy impasto, perfected as a pintor de la brocha gorda (literally a painter of the fat brush, meaning a decorative painter), is on display with the chunks of yellow and yellow ocher in the clutch of flowers at right foreground.

    "José Arpa's trip to the American Southwest likely reminded him of the semi-arid Penibético Mountains in southeastern Spain, near his Andalusian homeland. Arpa's itinerary in Arizona included the Hopi pueblos in northeastern Arizona, the Flagstaff region, and the Grand Canyon. He painted a number of scenes of Grand Canyon, many of which were exhibited at Babcock Galleries in New York in 1925, including Bright Angel Trail-Grand Canyon, and probably the additional two Grand Canyon paintings in the current auction. Arpa's Flagstaff, Arizona, in the current auction is probably Oak Creek-Flagstaff, Arizona, also shown at Babcock Galleries.

    Arpa's experience and skills in Spain and Mexico as a pintor de la brocha gorda (literally a painter of the fat brush, meaning a decorative painter), are on full display with his tactical use of very heavy impasto as well as laying contrasting and familial colors side-by-side in his Arizona/Grand Canyon series. In opposition to the tactile use of paint in the foregrounds or to enhance certain parts of these paintings, Arpa's sensitivity to rendering the subtleties of the southwestern landscape is inescapable in these three paintings. His nuanced brushwork allows the "faraway nearby" to blend where the land meets the sky in the background of each painting. All three are tours de force in Arpa's obro and affirm his place in the front rank of American painters in the first quarter of the 20th century.

    Condition Report*: Glue-lined canvas; craquelure; under UV light, there appears to be scattered careful touches of inpaint in upper left quadrant and one small spot near bottom center edge.
    Framed Dimensions 24.5 X 28.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    18th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 898

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