This is an absolutely extraordinary painting. A fascinating mixture of dress and accoutrements are visible, from Victorian (top hat), earlier (flintlock pistols left over from the Peninsular war), even older (traditional peasant costume) to the modern. We know this is the Basque country in Spain by the berets (blue). Each face vivid, unforgettable. There is definitely the feel of a historical allegory in this vivid grouping. But the year is 1937.
The Spanish Civil War is in its second year. Artists and writers from all over Europe are drawn into the conflict, on the Loyalist left-wing side, as was the Basque Nationalist party. These young foreigners are there to observe, to report, to support, even to fight. The artist is Dutch, his style recognizably that of the Bergen school, lightly expressionist, very lightly cubist, intensely humanist. And he is brilliant. History, in the nightmare shapes of the Republican defeat, the rise of Fascism, and the Second World War, intervenes.
He turns up in the record in the 1950s as a respected restorer of paintings in Schenectady, New York. No mention of him as a painter in his own right. A postwar immigrant. A survivor. Disappears into obscurity again.
But we have this painting. Passionate, compassionate, satiric, alive, young, enraged and just terrific.
Canvas measures 30 1/4″ x 47 1/4″