Some weeks ago, I received following mail:
I came across your website as I was doing research on my article about bullfighting in Catalonia. I know that there is a lot of campaigning against bullfighting going on in Catalonia and people putting pressure on politicians to make a ban against bullfighting.
My idea is to show two sides of the conflict – people advocating a prohibition against bullfighting as well as those defending it.
I am very interested in your opinion on this whole debate that has been going on for years. As an artist specializing in bullfighting, you caught my attention immediately and I am curious to hear what you think about the campaigns and how you feel about bullfighting. The feel you express through your work.
I am a Danish journalist and I live in Denmark. In connection with my research, I will spend a week in Barcelona from Wednesday on. I know you are from Almeria, but maybe I could call you and make a phone interview.
I really hope you will be interested in sharing your opinion with other people.”
I was of course interested in taking part to this research, and gave the journalist an interview. I thought some people might be interested in some personal details and opinions about my “bullfight painter carreer”, so here it is
Let’s start with an easy question. For a little background information – Where did you grow up in France, and what Spanish city do you live in now?
I was born in the French Pyrenees, in a town called Tarbes. (the main town of the „Hautes Pyrenees“ , 5 kilometers away from the famous “Pilgrimage” town of Lourdes).
I lived there until I was 8 and then we started moving quite a lot in France, living in many different towns.
When I was 19 I moved to Germany.
Why did you move to Spain?
I moved to Spain from Germany because this was the country where I always wished to live. I had been on holidays in Spain since I was born, every year, as long as I lived with my parents, and I am more attached to it than to France or Germany. Somehow my roots are here.
Also, there came a point in my life when I decided to stop working as a mathematician and dedicate my life entirely to art. I thought Spain was the right country to live as a painter, especially because of the weather which allows me to paint outside all the year.
Are you married?
I was married twice, 2 German husbands. I am divorced now.
What is your educational background?
I started my mathematics and physics Studies in France, and went on with my maths/physics studies in Germany, in the University of Goettingen.
As an artist, why, when and how did you decide to specialize in bullfighting?
It was not really a decision. I never decide to paint anything. I kind of „sail with the wind of my passions and desires“. If I remember well, I started painting sport themes, and it was a logical continuation of it as I arrived to Spain.
But I never really wanted to specialise in bullfight, it happened naturally. There were always more people interested in buying my bullfight paintings, I had then to paint more and more. There were even times when I in fact thought that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I didn’t want to be labelled as a „bullfight painter“, and see me confined to paint bulls and bullfighters until the end of my life!
I love diversity, in life and in art, I get easily bored, and I do need to change my themes, techniques, etc quite often (which explains the extreme diversity of my work).
But somehow I always manage to come back to my love for bullfight painting, and regularly have periods of some weeks when I paint only them, but then stop for a long while again.
Can you give any estimates on how many bullfight paintings you have made so far? Or how many you have sold?
I guess about 80 in acrylics/watercolour/gouache, and then about 30 in a new series in a very personal technique which involves classical techniques and digital art,
I must have sold about half of the originals all over the world and quite a lot of digital prints and giclee prints.
How many bullfights have you attended, and do you go regularly?
My father took me with him the first time to a bullfight in the North of Spain, as I was 2 years old. Until I was 18, I think I attended every summer some bullfights in Spain, in different towns around Alicante. Altogether surely around 50. Then I moved to Germany and didn’t come to Spain for many years, neither attended any bullfight.
Since I moved to Spain about 8 years ago, I went to some again, but not regularly. The last one I saw was in October 2008, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to try to go regularly again.
When and where was your first bullfighting show and can you briefly describe this first experience with bullfighting?
As I said before, I was 2 years old and it was in a little Spanish town not far from Pamplona. Needless to say that I don’t remember anything! But I must have enjoyed it somehow, as my father after that first one always took me (and my 2 older brothers!) with him whenever he went to a bullfight.
But I generally remember that it was always a big feast for me to go to a bullfight, and still is!
I think it is the show I must enjoy most in the world!
What does bullfighting mean to you?
A sublime Encounter of Life and Death and Passion, bathed in the deepest Sensuality and Light
What is it about bullfighting that you find most inspiring?
Without any doubt, the colours, the movement and the aesthetics of everything in the bullfight ring are extremely inspiring to me. I just need to enter the arena, or to see it on the TV, or even to only to see some bullfighting photos to feel attracted to start painting! For me bullfight IS Art, and I feel compelled to capture it on paper or canvas, again and again.
A big part of it is pure choreography, but not sophisticated like in ballet. Natural choreography celebrating all Powers and Passions of Life and Death.
In your own words, is there a way to somewhat describe the emotions you are expressing through your artworks?
First of all a bullfight is for me a powerful assault on all my senses: the colours (the bullfighters suits of course, but also the colours of the arena, the sand, the blue sky, the black bull, all extraordinarily attractive to me), the sounds (people, music, animals), the smells, the lights and shadows. I suppose most of my feelings are inspired by these sensations. Then I feel a tremendous connection to nature looking at the bulls running through the ring and attacking the men. And I feel the extraordinary Power of Human Kind when I see the bullfighter dominating the Beasts. And I could cry when I see the beauty and Strength of all of that.
For me the whole show is pure Aesthetics and Art in Movement, and it moves my heart deeply. I suppose that, being an artist, beauty moves me more than anything.
How does it make you feel when you see or hear of animal rights organizations campaigning in the streets against bullfighting?
As I told you before, I am not a political person at all, and never attended or saw any campaign against bullfighting.
But generally I understand and accept their position. What I don’t accept is the ones among them who are ignorant, who don’t know what they are speaking about or fighting against. Of course most of them have never been to a bullfight, and if, only once, and just with the aim to reinforce their convictions.
These people always focus on the so-called „cruel“ part of the fiesta. I find this attitude very simplistic. They forget many things. They forget that bullfight is a long tradition, culture, and has to be respected and understood as such.
I must admit that I get quite angry when I am confronted with a fanatical anti-bullfight attitude (but anyway, I am always allergic to any fanaticism). All these people forget also that cruelty is everywhere present in life, and I am sure that they themselves behave more than once in a very cruel way towards their environment. But it is of course easier to have such an obvious target.
I believe also that the bullfighters, and the real aficionados, respect the bulls, and more generally animals, more than these fanatics do. When you look at a bullfighter fighting, you can sense all along the respect, and even the love he feels for the bull.
What do you think when they call bullfighting “torture” and say that the bulls are suffering a lot of pain?
I suppose I ever answered this question already in the last question, at least partly.
I can’t deny that I believe that the bulls are suffering. To tell the truth, I often wonder about it, how much they really suffer, and considering the hits they get from the picadores and the banderillero, I suppose it is quite a lot (considering too how fast most of them get tired and weak after having been wounded).
But to tell another truth, and perhaps the most significant one, when I am in the arena, I don’t think at all about it. In fact I don’t think at all about anything. I am totally involved and fascinated by what is going on, my brain seems to be put into “sleep mode”, only my senses and emotions are active.
Sometimes, after the show, I think if I should be ashamed about it, but I can’t. The love and passion are much too strong, stronger than any moral considerations.
I want to add that I generally love animals quite a lot, bulls too… I have seen herds of bulls in the wild, they are simply wonderful (and scary ☺ )
Is there anything that could ever possibly make you “switch to the other side” and be against bullfighting?
No, I can’t imagine that. 50 years now of bullfight love seem to testify that it is love for ever!
But I know 3 persons in my very close environment who have switched.
My father, who was really passionate for a long time, can’t stand it anymore, I don’t know why the switch came but he can’t stand anymore to see the animals suffer. I suspect that this happened after he had his first dog, whom he loved very much… I believe that the dog made him change his view of the animal world…
Also my mother who hated bullfight all her life has started loving it about 10 years ago. She looks at it with great pleasure on the TV (when my father is not around!). I don’t know where the switch here comes from.
(Both are 84 years old)
And my partner, an English rock musician, was against bullfight until he met me (but had never attended a show!). Then he saw my paintings and loved them. But he thought that it was only me, who made bullfight look beautiful and artistic. In October 2008 he agreed to go with me to a bullfight, and I saw there something extraordinary: he was totally fascinated, and he started screaming with excitement in the arena even louder than the Spanish aficionados. It was a switch from hate to love within some minutes.
Do you think we should keep the bullfighting tradition in Spain the way it is now?
I can’t give a really objective answer to that. I hope with all my heart that the bullfight tradition will survive, exactly the way it is now. And I do believe it should.
I think there are much more people than we know who kind of love bullfight. As an artist I have had amazing experiences with my clients. About one third of them, when I asked them if they like bullfight, answered very quickly:
I was shocked, unable to understand why they then buy bullfight paintings. They said:
„But your paintings are so beautiful, the colours, and the movement…“
This tells to me then officially many people are against bullfight, but within their heart?
I remember also my time in Germany. I never dared there to say that I loved bullfight, because the animal protection leagues were quite active and fanatic.
I do believe that many people in the world are in the same position: to admit loudly that one loves bullfight is like admitting, for most of the people, that one loves cruelty.
Some people, I noticed, have started to find a way around it. They admit loving most of the show, but say that they always look away when too much blood is flowing or when they hurt or kill the bull…
They are the ones who always choose the paintings where one can’t see blood or blood hasn’t appeared yet, mostly from the first part of the corrida.
The EU has considered a pan European bullfighting prohibition. Could you imagine bullfighting ever being banned in all of Europe, hence including Spain?
I didn’t know that, and hope that this will not happen. And no, I can’t imagine it. I can’t even think about it: IT HURTS!
Regarding culture as well as personal emotions, what do you think it would mean to Spain if it lost its bullfighting tradition?
I don’t know really what it would mean for the country of Spain. The thing is that Spain itself does not exist anymore as it existed before. People from all over the world are living here now, it has become an enormous mix of races and cultures. I have known Spain for more than 50 years and I have witnessed the changes.
I like to compare it to a painting: when you mix too many different colours, it becomes grey, it loses his character. I think this is what happened to Spain. This is why I don’t think that the abolition of bullfight would deeply affect Spain nowadays. But it would certainly affect all the aficionados.
And perhaps it would affect countries other than Spain. I have noticed within the 2 last years an increasing interest from people all around the world, above all among the youth.
If bullfighting becomes prohibited only in Catalonia, what impact do you think such a prohibition would this ban have on the rest of Spain?
I am not well informed enough to have an opinion founded on facts, but intuitively, I would say that it would have no consequences at all, or perhaps, given that the Catalans are predominantly separatists, it would have the converse effect on
the other regions!