Room C in the Jerónimos Building at the Museo del Prado will host the staging of this exhibition, curated by Joan Molina, a lecturer at the Universitat de Girona. The exhibition seeks to pay well-deserved homage to Bartolomé de Cárdenas, alias El Bermejo (1440-1501), one of the most suggestive and attractive painters of the fifteenth century, by presenting his work to the general public.
Bermejo’s work exploits the pictorial potential of oil painting techniques, a new development at the time. In this respect, he created a personal realist language, one that focused especially on illusionist effects and on the definition of spectacular ranges of color. His main point of reference consisted of Flemish painting, the school inaugurated by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, which, by the latter half of the fifteenth century, had seduced the whole of Europe, including Italy. Although it has been speculated that Bermejo received his training in the workshops of Northern Europe, it is more probable that he learnt his craft in the cosmopolitan city of Valencia during the second third of the fifteenth century, a city that was open to Flemish and Italian styles, both of which the Cordobese painter reflected in his work.
Alongside his technical skill, he had an astonishing capacity to develop new interpretations of all kinds of devotional themes and iconographies. His desire to continue exploring new terrain, especially within the realms of landscape and portrait painting, enabled him to create some of his most complex and innovative works during the latter part of his professional career. His talent was recognized by a select group of commissioning clients, ranging from members of the Church and noblemen to distinguished merchants. It was also acknowledged by his fellow painters, who often imitated his compositions.
After his death, both his name and his work faded into obscurity, and appreciation for his creative work only revived at the end of the nineteenth century, when some of his most exceptional paintings on board aroused the interest of both international collectors and forgers of old paintings.
This exhibition, which will feature some 48 works from the collections of more than 25 loaning parties, will be presented between 9th October 2018 and 27th January 2019 at the Museo del Prado and, featuring some small variations, between 14th February and 19th May 2019 at the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya.
Bartolomé de Cárdenas, alias El Bermejo (c. 1440 – c. 1501), is one of the most fascinating painters of the fifteenth century. He was born in Córdoba, though his status as a converted Jew may well have predisposed him to an itinerant life that included stints in Valencia, Daroca and Zaragoza at least and finally Barcelona. To get round the restrictions of the guild regulations of the period, he often teamed up with much less qualified local masters. Even so, the alias with which he proudly signed some of his most innovative works shows that he was a painter with a powerful personality, probably highly aware, and confident, of his skills.
Building on his mastery of the oil painting technique practised by Flemish artists, Bermejo developed a realistic language of his own with a particular emphasis on illusionistic effects, as well as spectacular ranges of colours. His technical prowess was coupled with an astonishing ability to interpret all kinds of themes and iconographies in new ways. His urge to carry on exploring new avenues, especially in landscape and portraiture, led him to produce some of his most complex and innovative works during the last stage of his career. All this drew the attention of a select clientele ranging from high-ranking clergymen and nobles to distinguished merchants as well as his own colleagues, who often imitated his compositions.