Thursday, October 18, 2012

Painter Robert Motherwell and Poet Garcia Lorca


Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 34, 1953-54
Robert Motherwell (January 24, 1915-July 16, 1991) named his 1949 painting At Five in the Afternoon after a line in the poem "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias," by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). The work is a prelude to Motherwell’s tour de force, the Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, which eventually comprised some 200 paintings. Lorca's 1935 poem is dedicated to the legendary Spanish matador who suffered a fatal wound from a black bull named Granandino, “at five in the afternoon.” Lorca would be killed a year later by Fascists at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. This is the first section of Lorca’s majestic eulogy to his close friend:

The Goring and the Death

At Five in the Afternoon, 1949
At five in the afternoon. 
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone.

The wind carried away the cottonwool
at five in the afternoon.
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel
at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolate horn
at five in the afternoon.
The bass-string struck up
at five in the afternoon.
Arsenic bells and smoke
at five in the afternoon.
Groups of silence in the corners
at five in the afternoon.
And the bull alone with a high heart!
At five in the afternoon.
When the sweat of snow was coming
at five in the afternoon,
when the bull ring was covered with iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death laid eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Exactly at five o'clock in the afternoon.

A coffin on wheels is his bed
at five in the afternoon.
Bones and flutes resound in his ears
at five in the afternoon.
Now the bull was bellowing through his forehead
at five in the afternoon.
The room was iridescent with agony
at five in the afternoon.
In the distance the gangrene now comes
at five in the afternoon.
Horn of the lily through green groins
at five in the afternoon.
The wounds were burning like suns
at five in the afternoon.
And the crowd was breaking the windows
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Ah, that fatal five in the afternoon!
It was five by all the clocks!
It was five in the shade of the afternoon!

More on Lorca’s poem here 




2 comments:

  1. I was at the de Young in SF 2 weeks ago and loved the Lorca poem...amazingly moving - even more than the Motherwell paintings. I saw the Octavio Paz book - and met him once many years ago. Thanks for this posting. Regis

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  2. Motherwell's painting was more meaningful to me after reading Lorca's poem that inspired it. The synergy between these "sister arts" is what prompted this blog. Thanks for posting.

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