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Víctor Patricio de Landaluze. His work and time.
Richard Neumann
 
While he was knew more as a caricaturist than a painter during the 19th century, at present his painting is considered to be a work with a marked Cuban flavor, a fact that turns him into the most important local custom painter of the 19th century in Cuba.

Dr. Olga López Núñez

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Maybe the influence of romanticism and the plastic beauty he found in this topic helped him to recreate an incomparable visual recording around the middle of the 19th century, gathered by literature and engravings but absent from painting until that moment. He no doubt showed distinctive aspects of a growing identity that in its historical evolution was already announcing the urgency of its liberation.

Dr. Pilar Fernández

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The first artist who got inside the essence of the Cuban and became spiritually rooted in the people itself, the way they are and live, was Don Víctor Patricio de Landaluze, a mainland Spain-born Spaniard, but Cuban in his way of thinking and love for the Island.

His inspiration and influence on the artists who came after him until our contemporary Cuban artists is huge and always growing, although he focused on specific subjects and folklore. ... F. Calcagno, in his biographical dictionary, New York, 1878, says about Landaluze: “He was a notable peninsular caricaturist and a regular painter of local
Custom scenes. In 1862 he founded Don Junípero, a satirical and caricaturist, and in 1881 he illustrated the book Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba”.

Jorge Mañach praised him and acknowledges his sharp observation and expressive ability regarding folklore, although he is vehement in his critic of this artist, saying he was “artistically Cubanized, but an unforgivable sycophant and a conformist with servile inhibition of the liberal instinct”.

300 años de arte en Cuba, published in Havana in 1940, dedicates an extensive paragraph to Landaluze. It says he probably arrived to Cuba in the year 1863 and mentions the accurate date of his demise in 1889. It mentions that his activities as a political caricaturist earned him scarce affection among the Cuban art critics but stresses that he is more than just an art amateur or a notable caricaturist or humor draftsman: he was the first painter who captured our national types... In short, it says Landaluze is more Cuban than Melero and Chartrand and adds this is a paradox if you take into consideration their political leanings.

Martha de Castro in her Arte Cubano Colonial, published in Havana in 1944, questions the date of Landaluze’s arrival to Cuba (...) due to his previous collaborations with Cuban newspapers. She also praises his merits as a folklorist ... and as the first painter to develop the black motif in his works.

The catalogue of the exhibition La Pintura Colonial en Cuba, Havana 1950, reads: “Landaluze, Víctor Patricio. A cultivator of political caricature and pictorial costumbrismo. This last aspect granted him a unique place among our artists from the colonial period, and gave his work a high documentary value —apart from its aesthetic value. He developed works using watercolors and oil, to which he gave a transparency of watercolor. “Tipos y Costumbres” is an infinite mine of Cuban typologies, captured by this Spaniard, a political enemy of the independence movement, who was able to express like anyone else in his paintings what is typical Cuban, using it as the subject and translating it to his works with a sharp sense of observation and quality compositions and colors.”

The researches conducted in addition to the abovementioned publications at the National Museum, the Parish and the Catholic school in Guanabacoa, at the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País and several libraries allow us to substantiate a plausible biography of Landaluze.

Víctor Patricio Landaluze (sometimes also written Landaluce) was born in Bilbao in 1827. Gerardo Castellanos in his Panorama Biográfico sustains that he belonged to a noble family possessing the title of Marquis of Prado Largo. Expected to follow a military career according to the family traditions, he was given a fine education. He made several trips to Spain and France and lived in Paris for some time. He spoke six languages, had excellent relations with high society and as a man eager to broaden his mind, he took advantage of every chance to deepen his knowledge of cultural and art issues without dedicating professionally to any particular branch. Due to his family and social environment and his pride for being pure-blood Spaniard, he developed a certain arrogance and leaning to satire. His arrival at Cuba seems to be clearly established by the obituary published on June 19th, 1889 in the Diario de la Marina newspaper. There you can see he arrived before May, 1850 and lived temporarily in the town of Cárdenas. It is untrue that he held any official or military position. Landaluze witnessed, on May 18th and 19th of that same year Narciso López’s expedition..., his landing from the ship Creole with 500 men, the quick capture of the city, the insufficient echo of such nobles intentions, the failure as a result of the lack of preparations and information, the inevitable bloody actions and the dramatic death of lancer Carrasco —who refused to surrender after falling from his horse and was pierced by the bayonets of the expeditionary forces. This great event Landaluze witnessed made a deep impression on him, contributed to distort his opinion about the ideal nature of the independence movement and influenced his attitude and critics in regards to colonial emancipation. Some time later he began to work in the editorial staff of the Diario de la Marina newspaper as a theater critic and folklorist.

His first important contribution to the Cuban folklore line was his collaboration as the illustrator of the work “Los Cubanos Pintados por sí mismos”, published by D. José Robles with an introduction by Blas San Millán in Havana, in 1852.

The original idea for this publication belonged to D. Antonio Bachiller y Morales, who had in mind a fancy book, illustrating the Cuban life and customs. Due to shortage of money they only published the first volume of the book and the National Library own only the first copy —a rarity highly appreciated by bibliophiles—, which belonged to D. Vidal Moral y Morales. It was on that book that Landaluze showed his first Cuban types, including among them “El Lechero”, “El Tabaquero”, “El Peón de Ganado”, “El Mataperro” and other characters that foretell the subsequent evolution of his work. However, his illustrations on this first publication about local customs lack of a great artistic value or professional perfection. They are just the drawings of a rather skillful, observant amateur. At the same time, Landaluze also published in Havana his first attempts in the literary field —forgotten today. I can quote for certain his Doña Toribia, an operetta, published in 1852. He was probably also the author of the imaginary drama El Corazón de una actriz, also known as Sueño y Realidad, 1858, signed D.V.P. , and the toy in an act of La Cosa Mala de la calle del Sol, signed P.D.L.

Due to his relations with high society and as a member of the editorial staff of the Diario de la Marina newspaper, Landaluze regularly visited the fashionable reception rooms in Havana. It was probably in one of them that he knew Juan Martínez Villergas, from Valladolid, an ambitious man, a critic worried against liberal policies. Villergas invited him to illustrate his new satirical literary magazine “La Charanga”, published during the years of 1857 and 1858. Along with Landaluze there were other illustrators of that magazine like Miguel Melero, the future director of the San Alejandro Academy of Arts and Augusto Ferrán, a fine painter and sculptor graduated from San Fernando de Madrid, and the disciple of Parisian painter Cognier. The magazine’s caricatures dealt first of all with inconvenient places and excesses in women’s fashion and are rather ordinary quality. After the suspension of “La Charanga”, that same Villergas published another magazine —“El Moro Muza”, which was a little more aggressive, getting some caricatures by Landaluze from time to time. “El Moro Muza” was published since 1859 and continued in five stages. Its leanings and particularly its antifeminism caused a lot of indignation and criticism. Landaluze left soon this magazine to publish his own weekly paper, “Don Junípero”, which was published during the years of 1862 to 1864 and from 1866 to 1869. The style of Landaluze’s caricatures gradually changed correspondingly to his increasing ability and production. The total amount of his drawings and caricatures reached to 2000. His first drawings remind the works of school students, pencil shaded; later Landaluze tried to imitate the methods of the French caricaturists, but he never reached the sharpness and the artistic quality of them (...)

Until the year of 1866 his topics were almost exclusively local or regarding international events, extracted or copied from American or European magazines. Before 1862 you will not find the slightest attack on Cuban pro-independence movements. You will not find neither in the guide of outsiders or the newspapers of that time any sign that he had any active military function or —as some authors say—, that he came to the Island to be the assistant of the Governor-General Francisco Lersundi. Lersundi took up his post as Captain General on May 30th, 1866 to remain until November of that same year and then get back the post for a second time from December 1867 to January 1869 (...) It seems probable that Landaluze had relations —whether familiar or social— with General Lersundi, the receptions of which described at length in his magazines and whose portrait, big size, he flatteringly published. The influence of Lersundi, a mean reactionary, began to show in his first attacks on reformism, appeared on his magazine in the years of 1866 and 1867. His sharpest, scathing attacks on the insurrectionists appeared in the years from 1870 to 1872 on the magazine “Juan Palomo”, the cover of which was illustrated by Landaluze (D. Junípero). His attacks are mostly aimed at the figure of D. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his closest friends and I think the reasons for such social and incompatible demonstration of hate and aggressiveness are not only the result of the political thinking of the Spaniard who can not tolerate that Spain, his homeland, lose this dear jewel Cuba is in his opinion, but also for personal reasons. It was then that he joined the army as a volunteer. However, his passion as an active supporter subsided soon and even disappeared to a great extent before new interests and after the year of 1872 you almost can not find attacks or political caricatures. Landaluze found another and a more delightful attraction. During a great party at the Marine Palace, he met the beautiful lady Rita Planas, widow of Granadas. He felt in love and married her in the year of 1874 in the town of Guanabacoa, where he lived until his death. He was appointed colonel and head of the colored battalion “Spain” of the national militia but he did not care too much about the active military service. In contrast, his artistic activities reached their peak during these years. He never gave up his passion for drawing and painting, but the Cuban environment and the colorful life of its people were a great inspiration for him and made him develop deep feeling of congeniality for the country and its people. He welcomed Dn. Antonio Bachiller y Morales’ idea of finally carry out his long-awaited project and publish a great book about the Cuban types and customs, illustrated by Landaluze. After numerous studies, watercolors and drawings throughout many years, publisher Miguel de Villas was able to bring out in the year of 1881 the monumental work “Los Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba” with an introduction and five chapters by Bachiller y Morales and eighty one illustrations by Landaluze. Also contributed to this book J. V. Betancourt, Francisco de Paula Gelabert and several more authors, with numerous articles. Among the many engravings of Landaluze’s drawings deserve to be mention in particular: “El Gallero”, “La Mulata de Rumbo”, “Los Guajiros”, “EL Calesero”, “El Puesto de Frutas”, “Los Negros Curros” (in color), “El Ñáñigo”, “Los Mataperros” (inspired by Murillo’s rascals) and “La Partera” (a bit in the style of French custom artists from the 18th century.)

Richard Neumann. Víctor Patricio de Landaluze. His work and time. Architecture (Havana) Year 18th, Nº 206, September, 1950, pages 422 to 427.