Álvarez de Sotomayor y Zaragoza

Biography and information

Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor (Ferrol, A Coruña, 1875 - Madrid, 1960). As a child he moved with his family out of Galicia, studying Fine Arts at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid.

In 1899 he wins the artistic pension to extend his studies in Rome for four years, which allows him to travel to Belgium, Holland and Paris, which will influence his conception of painting, for which he will take as references the Flemish Renaissance, the Baroque painters, Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt and the French impressionists. In the National Exhibition of 1906 he received the first medal for his work Los Abuelos (The Grandparents). Between 1908 and 1915 he played an important teaching role at the School of Fine Arts in Santiago de Chile, where he was director.

Back in Spain, he settled in Madrid, where he was appointed official painter of the Royal Family. Sotomayor, who had already received many artistic awards, is a painter of great renown in official and academic circles. At the Exhibition of Galician Art in A Coruña in 1917 he presented one of the most famous works of genre, "Comida de boda en Bergantiños" (Wedding Meal in Bergantiños). In 1922 he was made a full member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and that same year he became director of the Prado Museum where he remained until 1931, resuming it in 1939 when the civil war ended until his death in 1960.

Sotomayor will cultivate several pictorial genres: mythology, portrait, religious scenes and genre themes for which he takes Galicia as an artistic reference, becoming one of the greatest pictorial exponents of Galician artistic regionalism. The painter will have a special relationship with A Coruña during his vacation stays in Galicia and in the longer one that takes place between 1931 and 1938 due to the national political events. He paints and makes notes and sketches of the people, costumes, works, customs and festive celebrations of the Galicia of the moment with a vision of ethnographic study. In his genre scenes he uses diluted colors and makes an idyllic recreation to the taste of the romantic costumbrismo. In his last stage, with a consolidated career and having become a successful painter, he alternated his activities in the Prado Museum with multiple commissions from the bourgeoisie of the time, especially portraits.

We must remember that his figure is linked to the history of the Museum of Fine Arts of A Coruña, since as delegate of Fine Arts, his efforts led in 1937 to the achievement of the first headquarters that would house the Museum, the building of the Royal Maritime Consulate. Sotomayor became the director of this institution in 1938, establishing a solid friendship with José Seijo Rubio, painter and great promoter of the creation of the museum.
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