Santiago ARCOS Y UGALDE
(Santiago de Chile 1852 - San Sebastián 1912)
Signed, dated and inscribed S. Arcos / 87 / Tanjer. at the lower right, and titled Absalam. at the lower left.
314 x 192 mm. (12 3/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
The present sheet is typical of the handful of watercolour studies of Arab types by Arcos that are known, which tend to show the subjects in profile or in three-quarter view, and set against a neutral background.
Born in Chile, Santiago Arcos y Ugalde (sometimes Megalde) settled as a young child with his family in Argentina. Following the deaths of his mother and brother, he and his father moved to France in 1864, where the young Arcos became a pupil of the painters Léon Bonnat and Raimundo de Madrazo in Paris. He later studied in Madrid, where he is recorded as a copyist at the Prado in 1868, after which he completed his education in London and Florence. When his father died in 1874, Arcos inherited a considerable fortune, which he used to buy a large house and studio in Paris, part of which he rented to Raimundo de Madrazo and his brother Ricardo. A gifted painter, watercolourist and illustrator, Arcos divided his career between Madrid and Paris, exhibiting regularly in both cities, and also exhibited frequently in Pau, Bayonne and Biarritz. He worked mainly as a painter of mythological, religious and historical genre subjects, as well as producing portraits and small-scale plein-air landscapes.
Arcos was also a leading exponent of the 'costumbrismo' movement in 19th century painting, with its focus on Hispanic folklore and customs, and produced genre paintings of Andalucian and Basque subjects. By 1880 he was being praised by the journalist and writer Louis Énault: 'Compatriot of Madrazo and Fortuny, M. Santiago d'Arcos is today one of the most authoritative representatives of this contemporary Spanish school, so fine, so spiritual and so brilliant.'
Arcos exhibited regularly in Paris between 1879 and 1911, and won prizes in exhibitions in Madrid in 1881 and Paris in 1900. He became one of the leading Spanish artists working in Paris, and was much in demand among members of the Parisian society as a portrait painter. He counted among his patrons the former Queen Isabella II of Spain, for whom he illustrated a book of poems by Antonio Fernández Grillo, and such important foreign collectors as the American William H. Stewart, who was a major patron of several Spanish artists working in Paris. He was very active as an illustrator for numerous books published in both France and Spain - such as Achille Fouquier's Chants populaires espagnols, which appeared in 1882, and Gustave Becquer's Légendes espagnoles, published three years later - as well as such magazines as Le Monde Illustré, La Vie Moderne, and others. He also designed costumes and stage sets. Arcos spent much time in the Basque towns of Saint Jean-de-Luz in the south west of France and San Sebastián in Spain. The later years of his career were spent in San Sebastián, where he died of pneumonia in 1912.