Local or Foreign Artists: Who Paints the Town Better?

Manuel Garcia Rodriguez Vista de Sevilla, Museo de Bellas Artes

Manuel Garcia Rodriguez Vista de Sevilla, Museo de Bellas Artes

The Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville, Spain, acquired the piece Vista de Sevilla from Seville artist Manuel García Rodríguez. He was part of a group of pioneer Sevillian landscape painters known as the School of  Alcalá, which focused almost exclusively on painting the Guadalquivir river that cuts through the heart of Seville. 

This brings up the question: are local artists the best to portray their city? In one sense, they’ve walked the streets a thousand times, they know the shortcuts through quiet streets, and they understand the nuances of the language, the customs, the culture. On the other hand, they may not be able to see the forest for the trees. A tourist, upon first stepping foot on the Seville streets, may bring with them a “comparative culture” analytic. Because they are not familiar with the streets, the architecture, the language, they are better able to acutely define what Seville is and whether it is timid, lazy, fast-paced, or unforgiving. In addition, a tourist will elicit a reaction from the locals (whereas locals tend to ignore other locals) and this tells volumes. (Whether the reaction/feeling is authentic or not is another story).

It would be an interesting experiment to have a local artist and a foreign artist paint the same subject matter, and then have a blind judging by locals. Wonder who would win?

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2 comments

  1. Hello Lori

    Firstly thank-you for visiting my blog & leaving a comment.
    I’d say this subject could be a bit of a delicate issue if you weren’t careful.
    However , I think finally it must lie with the individual artist. There are people who look & people who pass through places thinking they’ve seen it but not having really looked. (As in the “We must do Rome, Paris, click , click with the camera ,done that… etc ” variety ).

    I think the “comparitive culture ” could be a positive factor but only if that particular tourist thinks, looks, reponds in an appropriate way.

    Someone who has lived in a place a long time does not neccessarily not look. Again I’d say it comes back to the individual. Having said that,I confess that often when I’m walking around I end up thinking why are these people not looking at what’s around them? But I guess that can be seen everywhere.

  2. Hi Sonya,

    I agree, these are generalizations, and there are definitely exceptions to generalizations. I think of any analysis as similar to a continuum that shows one extreme as well as the other, with all of the variables placed on that continuum. Sometimes I get lost looking at either extreme ends (the generalizations) and forget about the fuzzy middle (i.e., where variables can be either/or/both).

    I think it is an interesting exercise that you bring up: to look at the people around us to figure out what they are looking at!

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