Avant-garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain

Paula Barreiro López

- +

ISBN: 9781781383223

Publication: January 23, 2017

Series: Value: Art: Politics 12

In the USA? Buy the Hardback US edition
This groundbreaking book surveys the shifts in the aesthetic discourse and artistic practises that decisively influenced the shaping of the avant-garde during Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975). On the basis of extensive, so far unpublished, archival material, it discusses the intellectual and cultural field as an important battlefield for fighting the regime from within. The study opens with a comprehensive historical overview on the cultural world from the end of the Spanish Civil War throughout Francoism and reveals for the first time the broader intellectual and cultural context of vanguard art considering the special relations and negotiation processes between artist, critics and institutions during a major gap in the historiography of post-war Spanish culture: the late Franco dictatorship (1959-1975). It then analyses in depth the important role that a group of art critics played as theoreticians and peers in key artistic movements from the 1950s onwards. Using their extensive international networks in the midst of the Cold War period, they decisively influenced the aesthetic and cultural debates of their time and very concretely helped shaping a completely new discourse for the avant-garde in Spain. This book discusses the creation of this new discourse that linked culture and ethics/politics and analyses its impact on the intellectual and artistic landscape (visual, print and exhibition culture) during the last decades of Franco’s regime. It is indebted to a cultural historic approach that takes high culture, popular culture, politics as well as the history of ideas in account studying the reciprocal transfer processes within these fields and across European and American geographies. This study and its interdisciplinary approach will be of interest to scholars in art history, visual, cultural and museum studies of modern Spain in particular and Europe in general.

Paula Barreiro López is lecturer at the Art History Department of the University of Barcelona (Ramón y Cajal programme) and head of research of Modernidades Descentralizadas. Since 2007 she has worked at several European research institutions and universities in France, the U.K., Switzerland and Spain. Her research focuses on art criticism, cultural networks and politics in Spain, Western Europe and Latin America during the Cold War as well as the diverse and divergent developments of modernity reflected in the art historic accounts within an increasingly globalised world. Her publications include the books Modernidad y vanguardia: rutas de intercambio entre España y Latinoamérica, 2015 (edited with Fabiola Martínez); Crítica(s) de arte: discrepancias e hibridaciones de la Guerra Fría a la globalización, 2014 (edited with Julián Díaz) and La abstracción geométrica en España, 2009.

Acknowledgements   vii
Introduction: Spanish aesthetic discourses:
modernity, ideology and dictatorship   1
Modernism(s) - avant-garde(s). Spain: an integrated case? 8
Methods, structure and sequence 14

1. From Guernica to the international alliances: culture, art, and society 21
The Cultural battle lines of the Civil War
The 'bread' of the victors: art and culture under autarky
'We welcome you, Americans, with joy!': international and domestic cultural policies in the early 1950s

2. 'Spain is different': art, culture and propaganda in the era of the consumer society 71
The language of technocracy 73
The equivocal fruits of apertura 89
Dissent in the twilight of Francoism 107

3. Critics and networks: assuming militant criticism 121
Critical networks 122
Militant criticism 'all' Argan' 137
Militant critics in Spain 149

4. The 'Marxization' of art criticism: information, ideology and anti-Francoism 164
Marx through the 'backroom' 166
'Widening the cracks': Nulla aesthetica sine ethica 181
Militant Criticism at the service of anti-Francoism 193
Mediations: miliatnt critics providing 'information' and 'ideology'

5. Adoption(s), adaption(s) and artistic praxi 221
The sociological turn(s) of the militant critics 222
'Solutions of the transformation': militant critics and avant-garde artists in collaboration 233
The nature of the avant-garde: a conflicting issue

Artistic avant-garde and social reality: a battle for the meaning of modern art 293
Primary Sources 309
Secondary Sources 320
Abbreviations 337
Index 338

The author suggests new ways of understanding the interior opposition to Francoism in the cultural field. [...] Here is a book that any specialist in the Spanish culture of late Francoism should consult (and appreciate) in the future. 


Based on extensive archival material - partly unpublished - and an up-to-date knowledge of publications on culture during late Francoism and its ideological burdens, the author is drawing a picture of the debates that shaped the intellectual life of that time. With this book, Paula Barreiro López shows new ways of approaching these already known topics, analysing the many facets of Francoist cultural policies and the implications of the international context of the Cold War on plastic practices. But above all, she suggests new paths to understanding the internal opposition of the cultural field to Francoism. Among the latter, we can point out the study of the Marxist turn of a section of the criticism and the academic spheres during the 1960s, the cartography of the international connections of the leftist militant criticism, or the dualistic politicization and conflictive account of the avant-gardes’ at the end of the dictatorship. Here is a book that any specialist of the Spanish culture of late Francoism should consult (and appreciate) in the future.
Maria Dolores Jiménez-Blanco, Critique d’art


"A major contribution to Spanish art history scholarship, filling an important gap in the history of Spanish art, criticism, exhibitions and international networks of exchange during Late Francoism."
Dr. Miriam M. Basilio Gaztambide, Associate Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, New York University  

Format: Hardback

Size: 234 x 156 mm

360 Pages

24 B&W illustrations

ISBN: 9781781383223

Publication: January 23, 2017

Series: Value: Art: Politics 12

Related products

Scroll to top