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Nanette Rißler-Pipka (Siegen)

The paradoxes of Arte Joven: high and low culture before the rise of the avant-gardes

The following paper pursues the assumption that some of the main problems concerning the high and low culture which will be representative for the avant-garde magazines in the 20s and 30s are already detectable in Arte Joven (Madrid, 1901). The literary and art magazine is mostly known for the name of Pablo Picasso who was the artistic director and edited the magazine in collaboration with Francisco Asis Soler . Both came at the beginning of the year 1901 from Barcelona to Madrid with the plan to start a magazine to be modeled on the modernist magazines like Pel i Ploma or Els Quatre Gats. But the modernist aesthetics came into conflict with the poetics of the generación de ’98 (represented by Baroja, Unamuno, Azorín and others in Madrid). Part of this conflict is the struggle of high and low culture: the resurrection of popular literary and aesthetic traditions on the one hand and the intellectual elitist discourse on the other hand. In Arte Joven one is able to detect this conflict very precisely in the leitmotif of "Silvestre Paradox" – the protagonist of Baroja’s novel – who represents the philosophical inner conflicts mixed with grotesques and humorous elements. This is aesthetically reflected in the interplay of text and image. The illustrations by Picasso (Nonell, Ricardo Baroja) do not show topically correlations to the texts, but the mixture of high and low culture, of grotesque and dark street scenes on the one side and the modern woman of the higher society on the other opens up the dialogue with the articles of the magazine.

Thinking about the question of "When did the conflict or the mixture of high and low culture start at all? ", one is tempted to say, that the difference always existed. But beginning with the industrialization and the "reproducibility of the work of art" (cf. Benjamin ), the difference between high and low culture became visible and a matter of dispute. While the 19th century produced the aesthetics of the poet as a genius, who creates an artificial world for the inspired, even E.A. Poe (with his tale "The man of the crowd", 1840) and – partly as a consequence of this – Baudelaire refer to the phenomenon of the mass as a cultural upheaval. Certainly Baudelaire focuses on the 'lyrical I' and the 'passante', the individual who stands out in the crowd and simultaneously melts within the mass. But still the 'mass' is considered as a more or less uncanny or even dangerous new phenomenon. Along with the discussion about mass culture at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century developed the conflict between high and low culture as we know it today.

The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset dedicates a whole study to the question of the power of the mass in La rebellión de las masas (1929) and refers to the mass as uncontrollable and uneducated factor in the society. From a highbrow point of view he distinguishes the upcoming avant-garde art also in his common article "La deshumanización del arte" (1925) as art that could not be recognized by the mass, because it stopped being mimetic in imitating human life and consequently cannot longer be understood by most of the people. Whereas Ortega y Gasset neglects here, that one of the principal new elements in the avant-garde art was in the twenties and before the discovery of the lowbrow and common object as a valuable motif in art and literature. The friction between those both poles of highbrow and lowbrow is one of the unresolved conflicts in avant-garde culture, that leads to the well discussed 'Scheitern der Avantgarde' (the failure of the avant-garde) (Peter Bürger in Theory of the Avant-Garde, 1974). One of Bürger’s reproaches is, that the avant-garde cannot simultaneously destroy the system of art and be part of it, i.e. the musealization of avant-garde art is contradicting to the postulation of making art for everyone and that everyone is competent to produce a piece of art. Certainly this is not true for every avant-garde movement and excludes for example the Spanish creacionismo and ultraísmo which both proclaim a highbrow competence of the poet to create a new form of metaphor.

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Nevertheless in Spain begins the examination of the conflict between high and low culture probably already in the course of the traumatic year 1898 (i.e. the loss of the last Spanish colonies Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines during the Spanish/US-American war). With the formation of new generations of poets and artists in the so called generación de ’98 up to the generación de ’27 and the avant-garde "isms" like creacionismo, ultraísmo and surrealismo the number of literary and art magazines rises in Europe as well as in Latin America up to the uncountable. These magazines represent the contemporary struggle of young poets and artists to change at a time the current situation – first of all regarding the intellectual life but second also the society. The will of change is for direct reading in the editorials and manifestos published in the numerous avant-garde magazines. To change basically components of the society and of thinking characterizes also the avant-garde itself as revolutionary movement. For Spain the need to make up for democratic structures in comparison to the rest of Europe (particularly France) and to substitute the negative image of a dark, backward and imperialistic nation might be some reason for the early avant-garde beginning with the generación de ’98. While in France and England Symbolists and Pre-Raphaelites no longer bother themselves with real life in favor for "l’art-pour-l’art"-aestheticism, in Spain the modernism in the Bohemian world of Barcelona follows these ideas, but the generación de ’98 which forms itself in Madrid rejects this self-sufficient highbrow point of view. Poets like Azorín, Unamuno, Pío Baroja and others describe and criticize the contemporary Spain without going back to the novel of realism or romanticism. The various avant-garde magazines provide a field of experimentation for the young poets and artists to develop new forms, motifs and poetics.

For a characterization of the avant-garde magazine as a media it is helpful to have a look on the analysis by Guillermo de Torre, who is one of the few and the first to study the avant-garde magazines in Spain (he is himself part of the avant-garde in the ultraísmo and author and editor of some magazines). In a quite polemic way he declares, that the literary magazine is per se better than a book and gives us insight into the hidden personality of the single author and of a whole generation of authors:

En principio fue el Verbo? No. En el principio fue la revista. […] Aludo a las revistas que son órgano de un grupo, alma de una generación, vehículo de nuevas aportaciones. Particularmente, a las que reflejan al espíritu de los 'años bisagras'; y 'año bisagra' por excelencia es 1898 son los finales de siglo XIX. […] El escritor de revistas es el guerrillero madrugador, el 'pioneer' que zapa terrenos intactos. La revista es vitrina y es cartel. El libro ya es, en cierto modo, un ataúd. (Torre 1969: 12-13; 15)

Important seems to analyze the avant-garde magazine as a complete work of a group of poets and artists that might not be ageless and without contradictions, but represents a contemporary view and is still a work in progress even if published and finished. The relevant avant-garde magazines of the generación de ’98 are named by de Torre as: Germinal (1897), Vida Nueva (1898), Vida Literaria (1899), Revista Nueva (1899), Juventud (1901), Arte Joven (1901), Electra (1901), Helios (1903), Alma Española (1903), La República de las Letras (1905)” (Torre 1969: 21).1 Not all of them combine high and low culture and / or interplay with other media – which is of interest for the present study of Arte Joven.

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So if we have a look more closely at this magazine in the following, it is because some of the main problems concerning the high and low culture which will be representative for the avant-garde magazines in the 20s and 30s are already detectable in Arte Joven. The very fact that the editorial staff includes poets/artists which tend more to modernism and some which tend more to the generación de ’98 is amazing and causes some of the interesting oppositions within the magazine. The chief editor was the today rather unknown poet Fancisco de Asís Soler who possessed the financial funds to publish the magazine, because he inherited a small and bizarre business to sell a machine called "el cinturón eléctrico" – a quacksalver medecine: "para la curación de toda clase de enfermedades" which is advertised in every number of Arte Joven and therefore also part of the popular culture in the art and literature magazine. Coming from Barcelona to Madrid, Soler and his friend Pablo Ruiz Picasso (as the artistic director) wanted to establish the modernist aesthetics in Madrid. Both worked in Barcelona for magazines like Pel i Ploma (1899-1903, cf. fig. 6), Els Quatre Gats (1899), Juventud (1901) and Luz (1898) and were part of the Bohemian world around the café "Els Quatre Gats" (founded by Santiago de Rusiñol, Pere Romeu, Miquel Utrillo, Ramón Casas i Cabró). In this environment Picasso had his first success and exposition when he created the celebrated menu for "Els Quatre Gats", but he was still a very young and not very known artist.2 Inspired by the posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and more Ramón Casas produced advertisement for the café that represents a modernist style, but is nevertheless also part of popular culture (cf. fig. 1-3)

Fig. 1: Henri Toulouse Lautrec: Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, poster (1891), Click on Image for Enlargement

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Fig. 2: Ramón Casas i Cabró: Poster for "Els quatre gats" (1898), private collection (reproduced also in Arte Joven as advertisement for the café), Click on Image for Enlargement

Fig. 3: Pablo Picasso: Menu for "Els quatre gats" (1899), Click on Image for Enlargement

When Soler and Picasso came to Madrid in 1901 it was only for the short time of four numbers of the magazine (March until June) that the project endured. This might be due to the fact that Picasso soon found a residence in Paris and was infrequently in Madrid as de Torre suggests (cf. Torre 1969: 53). But Picasso’s part in the magazine was not that important that this could have been the only reason. It is more likely that the financial founds were running out.

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Fig. 4: Pablo Picasso: Arte Joven (cover picture, no. 1-4) (1901), Click on Image for Enlargement

Fig. 5: Pablo Picasso: Arte Joven (cover picture numéro preliminar: 10.03.1901), Click on Image for Enlargement

Fig. 6: Ramón Casas i Cabró: Pel i Ploma (cover picture) (1899), Click on Image for Enlargement

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Nevertheless in the existing four numbers of Arte Joven you can detect the struggles and oppositions of the different avant-garde movements pointing to the future developments. Members of the editorial staff were some of the most important poets of the generación de ‘98 like Pío Baroja, Azorín, Unamuno. Thus in contrast to the magazine-title "Arte Joven" the poetic concept was not really "young" and revolutionary, rather the contrary would be true. The editorial of the "número preliminar" (10.03.1901) underlines the consistence in culture and the need to seek for the ‘ever young’ ('jóvenes eternos'), i.e. the young spirit in the thoughts of old classic models:

Hacer un periódico con sinceridad es cosa que parece en nuestras días imposible. Pues bien: ARTE JOVEN será un periódico sincero. Sin compromisos, huyendo siempre de lo rutinario, de lo vulgar y procurando romper moldes, pero no con el propósito de crear otros nuevos, sino con el objeto de dejar al artista libre en el campo, libre completamente para que así, con independencia, pueda desarrollar sus iniciativas y mostrarnos su talento. No es nuestro intento destruir nada: es nuestra misión más elevada. Venimos a edifica. Lo viejo, lo caduco, lo carcomido ya caerá por sí solo, […]Lo que subsista […] no es viejo: es joven, joven siempre, joven aunque cuente mil años de existencia (as cited in: Flores Arroyuelo 2002: 25)

This is the same type of argumentation as in Azorín’s fundamental and name-giving essay La generación de 1898 (1913) some years later, in which he shows that the renovating and revolutionary moments in Spanish literary history are always a reference to old and/or foreign models. To have 'young' thoughts is no matter of age, but to have the power of far-sightedness. The list of models is long and does not really distinguish modernism and the generación de ’98: Vergil, Homer, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Wagner, Nietzsche, Baudelaire and also El Greco and Velázquez. To choose a model is as free to the author/artist as to choose the form and content – if he is able to build something new out of it. The revolutionary act is not so much to destroy the old, but to open up for the individual abilities of the authors/artists and also to the foreign influences. This openness leads to an orientation on the highbrow European culture (cf. the named models) and simultaneously on all other jóvenes eternos including popular culture.

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The art and literary magazine as independent media is predestined to combine these contradictory elements. Even if it is a work of a group with a certain tenor in a poetic and political way, the articles may contradict each other and represent individual ideas. Not only the written articles, but also other forms like the comic or picture story or advertisement and the general interplay between text and illustration/picture give altogether a wide platform for heterogenic concepts like the combination of highbrow and popular culture. From the reader’s point of view the magazine provides a similar liberty to combine the different elements. Seldom one reads every single article, but browses through the magazine to be interrupted by the headlines, pictures and other things that may arouse his interest. Jacqueline Chénieux-Gendron attributes this effect to the concept of 'bricolage' by Claude Lévi-Strauss while analyzing the avant-garde magazine Minotaure (cf. Chénieux-Gendron 2005: 216).

If we start to browse through Arte Joven we find an interesting mixture of modernist elements and those of the generación de ’98 which correspond to the mixture of high and low/popular culture. On both sides, the visual and the textual, the magazine represents the struggle between the named poles. At first glance the illustrations by Picasso, Nonell and Ricardo Baroja show a rather melancholy and realistic aspect which could be attributed to the depressive tenor of the generación de ’98 (cf. fig. 5; 7).

Fig. 7: Pablo Picasso: untitled drawing in Arte Joven no. 2 (15.04.1901), Click on Image for Enlargement

Fig. 8: Pablo Picasso: untitled drawing in Arte Joven no. 3 (03.05.1901), Click on Image for Enlargement

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Even if some of the motifs of young women with 'updo' hairstyles and floral details remind of modernist aesthetics (cf. fig. 8), the scenes on the street or in bars where the poets meet, painted by Picasso, are of a dark and shadowy character reflecting the contemporary emotional situation in Madrid. To separate not only the different avant-garde movements but correspondingly the cities of Barcelona and Madrid might seem attractive, but considering for example the movements of Picasso from Barcelona to Madrid and to Paris, it shows the active exchange of ideas that makes a strict separation, like Herrera suggests it, impossible:

También aquí es perceptible, dentro de la misma poética, una sustancia diferencia entre lo catalán y lo madrileño, entre Rusiñol y Baroja: sentimental, descriptiva, lírica, con intención de conmover, fatalista en el autor de "El pati blau" y descarnada, con resabios picarescos y predominio del diálogo, reflejo de la realidad social en el autor de "Paradox". (Herrera 1992: 13)

The difference pointed out by Herrera is certainly existent, but the most amazing is, that in Arte Joven both aesthetics may occur at the same time. Art and literature as a reflection of reality means no longer a psychogram of society as in French realism of the 19th century, but can as well be the description/image of a landscape or the one of people, cities, feelings etc. The example of Baroja’s "Paradox" given by Herrera is particularly inadequate, because in this text the "realistic" description of a dinner in the bourgeois society turns into the "Orgía macabra", which is also the title of the text. This text by Pío Baroja published in the first number of Arte Joven is a part of his novel Aventuras, inventos y mixtificaciones de Silvestre Paradox (1901), which is indicated by a short footnote in the magazine: "De la novela en prensa Aventuras...."(Arte Joven No. 1, 1901: unpaged) – more precisely the text is identical with the end of the novel. The novel is the first book of the trilogy La Vida fantástica including also Camino de perfección (1902) and Paradox Rey (1906). In Arte Joven the protagonist Silvestre Paradox becomes kind of a leitmotif. In the first number of the magazine he is originally initialized with the text by Baroja and in the last number he is seen off in a humorously way in the article simply called "Paradox" by José Martínez Ruiz (Azorín). The telling name 'Paradox' is not only true for Baroja’s trilogy, but also for the combination of opposing elements in Arte Joven. Silvestre Paradox incorporates the essential paradox of being born to die, and therefore he is himself contradictory and not really to capture as personality.

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As the text "Orgía macabra" by Pío Baroja is the end of his novel, Silvestre Paradox is not introduced as a protagonist to the reader. He appears in the middle of the text together with his assumingly "friend" Avelino as guests of the bourgeois dinner party

Silvestre y Avelino, que de las vigilias y abstinencias de los días anteriores habían pasado a aquel hartazgo, estaban locos. Brindaron al mismo tiempo

– Por la amistad que les uniría toda la vida, por el Infinito […] – dijo Silvestre. Pero Avelino no quiso hablar de Infinito, ni de Absoluto, y brindó por la Ciencia, por la sagrada Ciencia, la religión nueva (Baroja 1901: unpaged)

This bizarre toasting opens up the orgy and the break down of normality. The highbrow philosophical talk remains for the rest of the text, but gets more and more ironical and deconstructive. It is also Silvestre who asks another guest (Doctor Labarta) to read his "poema en prosa" to rest of the party. This text within the text, a prose poem that does not at least correspond to the characteristics of the genre and rather resembles a common tale (with temporal prepositions like "Una noche", "a las primeras horas de la mañana", "Aquella noche"), constitutes nearly the whole rest of the "Orgía macabra"and is only interrupted by the play of the piano. The prose poem read by the author describes a fantastic and grotesque encounter of the Pope and the Death in the cathedral of Toledo when religion itself is dying: "La religión está dando las últimas boqueadas". The scenery gets more and more bizarre with skeletons riding on bicycles:

y los esqueletos en su carrera han ido perdiendo, el uno la falange de una mano, el otro el calcañal […] y la algarabía de los óragnos ha sido cada vez más loca, más vertiginosa...

The poem or rather the fantastic tale ends with the return of the dead and the living into earth and the exclamation: "Mors melior vita". This is picked up by Silvestre who cries: "Es verdad, es verdad. La muerte mejor que la vida". The paradox of the exclamation is obvious, but nevertheless it is powerful and spellbinding enough to infect all other. First Silvestre’s friend Avelino joins him in saying: "¡viva la Muerte! ¡Hip! ¡Hip! ¡Hip ¡Hurra!" and some of the other guests take it as a jest and jump in with: "¡Viva la Muerte!" (Baroja 1901: unpaged).

This nearly necrophile ardor of death reminds us of various traditions in Spanish culture and even leads to the fascist allurement of the mass and is all in all relevant for our subject of the high and low culture in Arte Joven. Thus from the Latin exclamation and the distinct bourgeois society we come to a grotesque scenery with the bizarre welcoming of death, which is proclaimed like a toast to the nation or a person’s long life. Taking into consideration the whole structure of the so called prose poem within the rest of the text, we may detect three different aspects of high and low culture.

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First, both texts reflect the subject of the orgy as an irruption of the low (the barbarian, the weird, the dark) into the high (the ordered, the civilized, the ethical). Second, it is the task of Silvestre Paradox to translate and initiate the change of level from high to low. He is also the intertextual tie between the outer and inner textual structure (i.e. he initiates the reading of the prose poem and interrupts it at the end). Third, the last sentence of the text (and therefore of the novel by Baroja) "¡Viva la Muerte! –gritaron unos cuantos en broma, y el pianista comenzó á tocar la Marsellesa..." stands for the agitation of the mass in times of war or at the declaration of war. In the context of the ‘98s it may have various implications. Not only the lost colonies in the war against the USA in 1898 feed the depressive feelings towards war and the own nation, also domestically problems as result of the so called Carlist wars (1833-1876) prevent the development of national feeling or even national pride at the turn of the century. The reference to the Marsellesa is therefore on the one hand an ironical innuendo of the French patriotism and on the other hand it implicates the Spanish demureness to fight for the own country (as it is complained in another article in Arte Joven)3. Not to forget that it was the very same exclamation that used the Falangist General Millán Astray during the celebrations of the Día de la raza in 1936 to agitate the mass for the beginning of the civil war in Spain. This might be accidentally, but it was also at this occasion that Unamuno (as a member of the ‘98s and of Arte Joven) took his last chance to make a stand against Franco. Unamuno countered:

acabo de oír el necrófilo e insensato grito, 'Viva la muerte'. Y yo, que he pasado mi vida componiendo paradojas que excitaban la ira de algunos que no las comprendían, he de deciros, como experto de la materia, que esta ridícula paradoja me parece repelente. El general Millán Astray es un inválido. No es preciso que digamos esto con un tono más bajo. Es un inválido de guerra. También lo fue Cervantes. Pero desgraciadamente en España hay actualmente demasiado mutilados. Y, si Dios no nos ayuda, pronto habrá muchísimos más. Me atormenta el pensar que el general Millán Astray pudiera dictar las normas de la psicología de la masa. (as cited in: Gumbrecht 1990: 864)

Thirty-five years after Barjoa’s text, which Unamuno must have known, he precisely drew the line between the subtle and grotesque exclamation in Baroja’s article and novel on the one hand and on the other hand the lowbrow mass-agitation by Millán Astray. The latter countered Unamuno with the slightly changed repetition: "¡Abajo la inteligencia! ¡Viva la muerte!" (cf. ibid). The Falangist general understood apparently the difference Unamuno made between his own paradoxically life and ideas and the way the Falangists tried to use mass psychology. Therefore Millán Astray underlined his aversion to the intelligentsia and situated himself on the side of the uneducated mass, the people, the folk and the popular.4

Ironically it was Unamuno himself and the generación de ’98, who tried to combine both, the highbrow and the lowbrow, to create a national identity which could be true for everyone. In the magazine Arte Joven we see already in 1901 how difficult this balancing act is to open up for new forms and motifs which integrate popular culture into the still bohemian and intellectual circle of a literary and art magazine. While Baroja tries to resurrect old popular Spanish traditions like the grotesque orgy which reminds us of carnival and combine them with bourgeois and intellectual talk, other authors in Arte Joven tend to polarize one side of the opposition. First, the editor Soler places his polemic against the corrida "¡Toros!" like an editorial on the first pages of the second number of Arte Joven. From a highbrow point of view he accuses the uneducated and pleasure-seeking public to prefer "este bárbaro espectáculo" on Easter Monday instead to be "amante de Trabajo, del Arte y de la Ciencia". In Soler’s argumentation all Spanish misery like the lost colonies, the assumingly internationally insignificant Spanish Art, the prostitution and general immorality is all due to the pleasure-seeking, callous people. This quite bizarre argument is even pointed to the leitmotif of welcoming of death like we saw it the exclamation "Viva la muerte", but here Soler argues against it:

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Vemos á la muerte que se aproxima y que amenaza acabar con nuestra existencia; pero es tal nuestra corrupción, que viendo que vamos á morir no luchamos, esperamos nuestro fin y ni siquiera procuramos acabar gloriosamente. (Soler 1901: unpaged)

Soler demands to fight against death and to die gloriously, which implicates clearly the situation of war. Thus the next sentence shows this evidently: "Sabido es hoy día se considera más gloriosa la muerte del torero que la del soldado."(ibid). This call to die for the Spanish nation has nothing to do with the later mass-agitation by Millán Astray, but the demonization of   the uneducated mass and the basically support of war is kind of the preliminary work for the Falangists. At the same time it shows the fear of the intellectuals in front of the power of the mass, which is naturally disappointed of the elite and seducible by popular pleasure and also by the media. When Soler criticizes: "Los periódicos dedican números enteros á la fiesta nacional."(ibid), he describes a modern phenomenon of mass media, which seeks to multiplicate the most attractive subject to get the most readers and by that principle it attracts even more people for that matter.

Nevertheless it is remarkably that Soler’s text, which certainly will not have had the agreement of his co-editor Picasso, who was at the time already an aficionado of the corrida, is published side by side with opposing texts and images in Arte Joven. The variety of forms, subject and even opposing polemic essays is part of the characteristics of the media, but also of the poetics of the generación de ’98, which shows the process of recovering and of redefinition of national and artist identity, that tries to obviate the dogmatic. The latter is also a reason why it is difficult to call Arte Joven an "avant-garde magazine". The rare poetic statements are contradictory or negative concerning the creation of art and literature. Opposing to the text by Soler in the same number of Arte Joven Ramón Godoy y Sola states in his essay "La torre de marfil y el arte por el arte" that: "La misión del arte, si es que arte tiene alguna misión, es reflejar la vida." (Godoy y Sola : unpaged). Part of the life that would be reflected by art and literature is naturally both the highbrow and lowbrow, the corrida and the philosophy.

Symbol and leitmotif of this struggle between the opposing elements – aesthetically and philosophically – is Silvestre Paradox, which is clearly visible in the text by José Martínez Ruiz (alias Azorín). The text simply called "Paradox" is situated in the place of an editorial in the fourth and last number of Arte Joven (01.06.1901) and accompanied by a portrait of Azorín. Humorously Azorín changes the levels of fiction and reality and speaks of Silvestre Paradox as a real person and part of the editorial staff of the magazine:

Silvestre Paradox ha salido esta mañana en el tren mixto para Valencia, Arte Joven siente viva simpatía por Paradox. La Redacción en masa ha bajado á la estación de Atocha a despedir al grande hombre (Azorín 1901: unpaged).

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In this short introduction Azorín uses the double meaning of the name "Paradox" in a philosophical self-reflection of the magazine Arte Joven and in the way he speaks of him as person that takes modestly the train. The second part of the sentence "Arte Joven siente viva simpatía por Paradox" may be read as a self-description: The whole avant-garde magazine is characterized as paradoxically in its irresolution and struggling between the oppositions, which are not at all meant as criticism, but as sympathetic – as well as for the protagonist "Paradox" as for Arte Joven. This is even stretched out to the context of the contemporary society:

Filósofo y artista, su espíritu irresuluto y ávido, grande en sus miserias y pequeño en sus triunfos, es reflejo del espíritu ávido é irresoluto del siglo. Placentera y dolorosa ironía se escapa de su vida extraordinaria y nos impele á amarlo... (Ibid)

On the threshold of the new century, of new aesthetical, philosophical and social ideas and after all of a new Spanish identity, which is still far from being achieved at the time, Azorín ends with a declaration of love for "Paradox (the protagonist, the philosophical figure and the rhetorical mean of the "dolorosa ironía"). Irony and the grotesque seem to be the only possible ways to cope with the "Paradox", which characterizes the contemporary reality. Both are also able to combine the high and the low: the ironic and subtle meaning is mostly only detectable for the higher educated (for example the difference between the exclamtion "Viva la muerte" in Baroja’s text and in the use by Millán Astray) and the grotesque goes back to folk traditions like carnival, when the order of high and low is everted. This principle is also shown in Azorín’s text, when he puts "Silvestre Paradox" on the same level with "Don Quijote": "Con Paradox sale de Madrid modestamente en el coche de tercera, el último de los caballeros andantes de manchega tierra". (Ibid)

Paradox takes the train and no horse, but he has the same difficulties as his courtly model. Both fall out of their times and do not understand "modern" times. Cervantes plays with the high (courtly) thinking of Don Quijote which does no longer correspond to the changed reality. Foucault even speaks of Don Quijote as one of the first 'modern' books, because it represents the fall of the order conditioned by similarities and the beginning of the new order of oppositions ( cf. Foucault 1974: 81). For the generación de ’98 it is usually claimed in literary history that they did not yet captured all effects of modernity and that they even are kind of backward in their wish to enlighten people (cf. Gumbrecht 1990, Neuschäfer 2011). But the poets of ’98 do not fall completely for the illusion of a possible enlightenment and disillusionment as Gumbrecht points it a bit onesided. At least in Arte Joven the identification with "Paradox" shows that they are aware of this misery of living a paradox, of the wish to unify the oppositions, which might be doomed to fail, but seems still worth the try. The most important that is often overlooked, is probably, that poets and artists in Arte Joven are able to laugh about their own struggle, even if the writings and images in the magazine do have a dark and depressive character. The advantage of the avant-garde magazine as media is to place both, the depressive and the grotesque clownery, side by side. Also the illustrations by Picasso and other artists, who rarely illustrate the content of the text, represent the rather sad encounter of the poets in the streets of Madrid or in cafés as well as grotesques elements like the harlequin, the prostitute or female dancers (cf. fig. 9-10).

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Fig. 9-10: Pablo Picasso: untitled drawing in Arte Joven no. 1 (31.03.1901), Click on Image for Enlargement

At the turn of the century also in painting, we can detect a shift from highbrow to lowbrow that is reflected in Arte Joven. The impressionist landscape is more and more substituted by figures placed in urban common situations that reminds us of the advertisement posters by Toulouse-Lautrec.

Fig. 11: Pablo Picasso: untitled drawing in Arte Joven no. 2 (15.04.1901, Click on Image for Enlargement

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Whereas in literature the landscape is rediscovered, that does not implicate a highbrow perspective, but rather the contrary. In search for a new Spanish identity the generación de ’98 resurrects old popular culture in focusing on the rural life and Spanish nature. This rediscovery of the meager (Castilian) landscape conjoins the different avant-garde movements like modernism, the generación de ’98 up to the generación de ’27 (cf. Lorca’s romances, etc.). In Arte Joven we find the example of an interplay of the medias regarding the landscape in the text "Paisaje" by Ricardo Baroja (who uses here the pseudonym Juan Gualberto Nessi) and the portrait of a female face by Picasso (cf. fig. 11). The profile of the woman with closed eyes and flowers in her hair in a modernist style is simultaneously a counterpart to the text and could as well seen as an interplay of "face" and "landscape".5 While the face is turning into a landscape – or more generally speaking into a visual element – the text tries to overcome the barriers of its media by using painting as well as musical elements:

El río murmura invisible.

Óyese la canción de los labradores que vuelven del trabajo, el cencerro del ganado, y las notas melancólicas de los sapos se responden desde lejos. (Nessi alias Baroja 1901: unpaged)

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The singing rural workers are no longer a part of a romantic landscape, but melt within the synaesthetic atmosphere.

Still the always reappearing problem in resurrecting popular culture in the avant-garde culture is the consequently transformation of the popular elements into highbrow elements. The very use of them in the context of avant-garde robs the popular character, because it is similar to the effect of musealization that Bürger describes. The people who like popular things will not read an avant-garde magazine just because it uses some of the same forms and subjects. The latter always get a new subtle and ironic meaning in the context of avant-garde. And even if the shift from highbrow to lowbrow really is successful like in the way Dalí produced common objects for sale, it is no longer considered as art by the experts. Nevertheless it is in any case a transgression of the barrier between the highbrow and lowbrow that is part of the change in society and already detectable in the early avant-garde magazine Arte Joven. Years later in surrealism and its magazines the grotesque will become a strong motif.


Arte Joven (1901), No. 1-4 : [, 28.03.2012]

Asis Soler, Francisco de (1901): "¡Toros! ", in: Arte Joven No. 2 (15.04.1901) unpaged : [, 28.03.2012]

Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz) (1975): "La generación de 1898", in: ders., Obras completas, ed. Angel Cruz Rueda, Madrid: Aguilar, 1125-1135.

Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz) (1901): "Paradox", in: Arte Joven No. 4 (01.06.1901) unpaged : [, 28.03.2012]

Baroja, Pío (1901): "Orgía macabra", in: Arte Joven No. 1 (31.03.1901), unpaged: [, 28.03.2012]

Benjamin, Walter (1972): Das Kunstwerk im Zeichen seiner Reproduzierbarkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Bürger, Peter (1974): Theorie der Avantgarde. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

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Chénieux-Gendron, Jacqueline (2005): "Der Mythos des Genies. Surrealistische Inszenierungen Picassos", in: Anne Baldassari (ed.): Picasso surreal. Basel/ Paris: Flammarion, 215-224.

Cirici Pellicer, Alexandre (1946): Picasso antes de Picasso. Barcelona: Iberia-Joaquin Gil.

Flores Arroyuelo, Francisco J. (2002): "Arte Joven: 1901, una revista modernista", in: Montegudo 7, 23-30, [, 05.03.2012]

Foucault, Michel (1974): Die Ordnung der Dinge. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Godoy y Sola, Ramón (1901): "La torre de marfil y el arte por el arte", in: Arte Joven 2 (15.04.1901) unpaged : [, 28.03.2012]

Gumbrecht, Hans-Ulrich (1990): Eine Geschichte der spanischen Literatur. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.

Herrera, Javier (1992): "Picasso y los escritores del 98: La revista 'Arte Joven'", in: La balsa de la Medusa 24, 5-27.

Herrera, Javier (1993): "O tradición y modernidad: Ideas estéticas y artísticas del joven Picasso", in: Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (UAM), Vo. V, p. 189-199. [ media/L2V4bGlicmlzL2R0bC9kM18xL2FwYWNoZV9tZWRpYS8xOTU0Nw==.pdf, 15.08.2011]

Nessi, Juan Gualberto (alias Ricardo Baroja) (1901): "Paisaje", in: Arte Joven No. 2 (15.04.1901) unpaged : [, 28.03.2012]

Neuschäfer, Hans-Jörg (ed.) (2011): Spanische Literaturgeschichte. Stuttgart: Metzler.

Ortega y Gasset, José (1987): La deshumanización del arte y otros ensayos de estética. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.

Ortega y Gasset, José (1999): La rebelión de las masas. Madrid: Castalia.

Torre, Guillermo de (1969): Del 98 al barroco. Madrid: Gredos.

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Picture credits

Fig. 1: (17.03.2012)

Fig. 2: (17.03.2012)

Fig. 3: s640/Menu%2Bdel%2BQuatre%2BGats,%2Bde%2BPicasso.jpg (17.03.2012)

Fig. 4: (28.03.2012)

Fig. 5: (17.03.2012)

Fig. 6: (17.03.2012)

Fig. 7-11: (28.03.2012)


1 For a short description of the named magazines see p. 27-70.

2 For more information see Cirici Pellicer 1946 and Herrera 1992.

3 Cf. Francisco de Asis Soler, "¡Toros!".

4 Again more than 30 years later, Fernando Arrabal will use the until then known exclamation as a title for his film Viva la muerte (1971), in which he resurrects the grotesque meaning of the exclamation of Baroja's text while referring explicit to Millán Astray and the civil war.

5 Cf. Herrera 1993: 198: "Picasso nunca fue un gran pintor de paisajes". Herrera is contradicting a relation between the female face and the text by Ricardo Baroja, but I don't think a general verdict is possible in this case.