Dominating the first room of the exhibition “Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators 1930–1945” at the Hayward Gallery in London was a huge canvas that occupied much of the far wall. Even viewed from a distance, this dim, religiose painting--seemingly unconnected with the Soviet workers striding purposefully into the future, and all the pagan impedimenta of the Nazis—could not be anything but Spanish. At once it evoked hours spent in dusty sacristies, in Avila, Burgos, or Valladolid, where bony relics of the saints were displayed for delectation and reverence. The name of José Antonio Primo de Rivera (leader of the Falange who was shot in Alicante prison in November 1936), painted on the outside wall of churches during Franco’s regime, flashed in the mind’s eye. On closer examination, the picture was found to be by José María Sert: it depicted “Saint Teresa of Avila, Ambassadress of Divine...

 

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