Tag Archives: obituary

A tribute to Ian Robertson, by Susan Wilson

Susan Wilson’s copy of Robertson’s Blue Guide to Spain

Susan Wilson writes:

I have a dog eared copy of Robertson’s Blue Guide to Spain which I bought in 1977. I had hitchhiked around Spain in 1976 for three months curious to see what was happening to the country-after the death of Franco. I was 25 and interested in politics.

Many journeys followed, always with the Blue Guide. I would read it aloud to my companions, in a tent in Toledo or a pension, at night, in simple plain rooms devoid of tv, radio, or devices! We would laugh at hilarious, indignant passages where he expressed himself in trenchant terms. Here he is, noting that ‘although Spain no longer admits to being a police state, the police are still very much in evidence…’

‘In the countryside, where they now serve little purpose, the ubiquitous olive green uniformed Guardia Civil, always patrolling in pairs (and known familiarly as “La Pareja”, the couple) wearing incongruous but distinctive patent leather tricorn hats. Formed in 1844, members of this strong but singularly ineffective arm of the law, raised originally to combat rural banditry and who have since regularly intimidated rural peasantry, are seldom-officious, but are not invariably civil.’ He continues, ‘In addition…when students, Basques, crowds, demonstrations, or “Manifestations” may, in their opinion require “Supervision”… the autocratic police, recently designated “Policia Nacional”…in the process of changing from a grey uniform (when they were familiarly know as “grises”) to a brown (and already called “chocolate con porras”- the latter being a truncheon shaped fritter!). They also guard embassies, ministries, ministers, nervous capitalists, stations banks, etc. Some of them have met with violent death in recent anti-authoritarian disturbances.’ (p. 93 Blue Guide to Spain).

There is a wealth of excellent quotes from Richard Ford. Some years later I was given the three volume Handbook to Spain by Sir Brinsley Ford as part of The Richard Ford Award to Spain, but took Ian Robertson’s guide with me on the several journeys I made.

Mine is underlined, my routes marked on maps, as I followed the Guide along roads, hills and in unbearably slow forever stopping overnight trains. One, from Atocha to Granada one spring, where passengers in a compartment with eight seats told funny stories, mimed silly antics, and shared food and wine with us.

I wandered alone and with various companions to obscure churches and towns in Extremadura … and over bridges (the Alcantara bridge, Roman, still in use, was one).

Informative, scholarly and amusing, it remains a definitive guide although I am afraid that it is no longer in print and that publishers of guide books began to underestimate their readers’ appetite to see and understand a culture. Robertson made a huge contribution to the travellers’ understanding of Spain.

If you can find a copy, don’t part with it. Reading this in the pandemic is strongly recommended!

by Susan Wilson

Ian Robertson – Hispanophile and Richard Ford Scholar

Ian Robertson, who has died aged 92, embarked on a lifetime’s scholarship on Spain and a prodigious production of travel guides inspired by an unlikely combination of the Duke of Wellington’s campaigns in the Peninsular War and Richard Ford’s accounts of his Spanish journeys. He became a leading authority on both.

His Spanish interests led to a commission to write the Blue Guide to Spain. A succession of further Blue Guides followed on France, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Austria and Switzerland, but his work on Spain, and especially Ford, remained his abiding passion and his crowning achievement.

In addition to several titles on Wellington’s campaigns, Robertson’s seminal work was the authoritative Los Curiosos Impertinentes about English travellers in Spain in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was published in Spanish in Madrid in 1977. Richard Ford, a major biography, was published in London in 2004. Along the way, he edited Ford’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Gatherings from Spain.

Richard Ford both inspired and informed him. “Time has not dimmed the scintillating perspicacity of Ford’s observations,” Robertson wrote.

Robertson’s own observations were equally masterful – combining waspish wit, artistic detail and encyclopedic knowledge – and even today it is a challenge to find a cloister or remote chapel that he had not visited and written about in his Blue Guide. The same is broadly true of all of his guides.

Robertson died in hospital from heart failure on 7 December 2020 in Arles which had been his home for the last 20 years.

Written by Gail Turner

María del Carmen Garrido Pérez, former Prado conservator, 1947-2020

María del Carmen Garrido Pérez was one of Spain’s leading conservators who specialised in the technical research and conservation of Spanish paintings from the 15th through to the 20th century. Having studied Art History at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where she was awarded her doctorate in 1979 with a thesis on the physical and chemical analysis of Hispano-Flemish paintings of the Renaissance, she went on to work from 1980 until 2015 at the Prado Museum’s Technical Documentation Office, which she headed from 1982. The result of her research and technical studies are the numerous books, articles and monographs, including: a technical study of Picasso’s Guernica (1981, in collaboration with María José Cabrera), and one of many technical publications on Velazquez in 1999. Over the years she also contributed to and collaborated with others in many exhibitions and participated in many associated conferences. In 2006 she collaborated with Gabriele Finaldi (now Director of the National Gallery in London) in the Prado’s exhibition El trazo oculto. Underlying drawings in 15th and 16th century paintings.

Text courtesy of Xanthe Brooke


Professor Trevor Dadson, 1948-2020

ARTES records with regret the death of Professor Trevor Dadson in January 2020. As Editor-in-Chief of the Hispanic Research Journal from 2012 to 2017, Trevor was a tremendous enthusiast of the annual visual arts issue, and a great supporter of its editors, Tom Nickson and Sarah Symmons.

Trevor was also an incredibly distinguished scholar whose work encompassed cultural, literary and social history. He dedicated his career to the study of the Spanish Golden Age, becoming one of the world’s foremost experts on the era. He  published dozens of books, chapters and research papers throughout his career and was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2008. In that same year, the Spanish town of Villarrubia de los Ojos named a new street after him, and in 2015 he was awarded the title of Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica by King Felipe VI of Spain for his services to Spanish culture. In 2016, he was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the Real Academia Española and the Real Academia de la Historia.

His monographs include a major study in Spanish of the Moriscos of the Campo de Calatrava in Spain (2007), a history of the printing of the ‘Rimas’ by Lupercio and Bartolomé Leonardo de Argensola (2010), a study of Diego de Silva y Mendoza, Count of Salinas (2011), and an edition in Spanish of the travel diaries of Elizabeth Lady Holland and the novelist George Eliot, who both visited Spain in the nineteenth century (2012). Other books include the letters memorials of the Count of Salinas (Marcial Pons-CEEH, 2015), an edition of the Count’s unedited poetry based on the autograph originals (Real Academia Española, 2016), and a revised and updated second edition of his book on the Moriscos of Villarrubia de los Ojos (Iberoamericana-Vervuert.

In 2014 he published a book in English on the Moriscos of the Campo de Calatrava: Tolerance and Coexistence in Early Modern Spain (Tamesis Books); a revised edition of this work in Spanish was published by Cátedra in 2017. His latest projects included an edition of the more than 500 letters the Count of Salinas sent as Viceroy from Lisbon between 1617 and 1622, as well as editing a volume of studies on Islamic Culture in Spain to 1614 by L. P. Harvey (former Professor of Spanish at Queen Mary).

Trevor will be remembered as an exceptional scholar and energetic scholar. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

[this obituary is adapted from one published by Queen Mary, where Trevor taught for many years: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/sllf/news/stories/remembering-trevor-dadson.html%5D

 

Art historian, philanthropist and ARTES member William Jordan has died at 77

The Dallas News reports that internationally recognised art historian William B. Jordan died Monday in Dallas after a short illness.

After obtaining a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, he helped Mr. Algur Meadows form a new collection of Spanish paintings for Southern Methodist University. Later on, he was curator at the Dallas Museum of Art, Kimbell Art Museum and, eventually, a trustee of the Nasher Sculpture Center and the DMA.

In 1986, Dianne Goode and Dr. Bill Jordan are seen in this Fete Set photo.(Joe Laird /Staff Photographer)

In 1986, Dianne Goode and Dr. Bill Jordan are seen in this Fete Set photo.
(Joe Laird /Staff Photographer)

Jordan was known for his unerring eye and outstanding ability to identify potential acquisitions and new masterpieces. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the discovery and subsequent personal gift to the Prado Museum in Madrid of the Portrait of Philip III by the greatest Spanish painter of the Golden Age, Diego Velázquez. Jordan donated the work (estimated at $6 million) to the Prado on Dec. 17, 2016 and was consequently made a trustee of the most significant museum of Spanish art in the world.

Michael Jacobs, 1952-2014

Michael JacobsThe Hispanic world has lost one of its greats.  Michael Jacobs, who died from cancer on 9 January 2014  aged 61, was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable writer with an endearing personality, in the  tradition of George Borrow, Richard Ford and Gerald Brenan.

Michael had an extraordinary ability to connect, and both his art historical and his travel books are full of fresh, lively and entertaining insights.  He had a lifelong passion for Spain, and settled in the  village of Frailes in the Provincía de Jaen in 1999,  and there he soaked up and observed the people, atmosphere, sights and food of Andalucía, and wrote about them. Frailes later became his base when he travelled further afield to South and Central America.

He was born on 15 October 1952 in Genoa, Italy, to an Anglo-Irish father, and an Italian mother, who had acted with a Sicilian theatre company in the last years of the Second World War, and from whom Michael developed a passion for food.  He was educated at  Westminster School, and went to the Courtauld Institute, which was then in Portman Square and under the Directorship of Anthony Blunt, to study for his BA and later his PhD in the early 1970s.

Michael was an encyclopaedic scholar but never a conventional one.  A career spent in the confines of a museum or an art history department was not for him (though he was a Senior Honorary Research Fellow of Glasgow University); but he was the author of 24 books. His restless curiosity led him to write early guides to art and artists of the British Isles, and artist colonies in Europe and America, before moving on to travel books about places as varied as Provence, Czechoslovakia, Budapest, Romania, Barcelona, Madrid, Andalucía, the Alhambra and the Camino de Santiago. He translated Golden Age plays, and began to write more personal books on Spain beginning with Between Hopes and Memories (1994), which caused the newspaper ABC to call him ‘the George Borrow of the High-Speed Train Era’. El País praised him for ‘going beyond the clichés and giving a portrait of the real country’.  The Factory of Light (2003) a picaresque memoir written in and about the small village of Frailes, established him as a local celebrity in Andalucia. He participated in conferences, radio interviews, lectured on specialist tours, and took part in the Alhambra Hay Festivals and he made many local and international friends among writers, photographers and gastronomers.

In 2006, Michael’s interest was ignited by letters from his Jewish grandfather from Hull, who worked in Chile and Bolivia with the Andean railways, to his grandmother. Michael followed his grandfather Bethel’s footsteps, and wrote Ghost Train through the Andes.  In a major journey in 2010, Michael intertwined geography, history and 19th and scary 21st century revolutionaries together in The Andes. His last book, The Robber of Memories (2013), was a skilful and poignant travelogue down the Magdalena river in Colombia, woven in with the experience of his parents’ loss of memory from dementia and Alzheimers, and also the similar plight of his literary hero, Gabríel García Márquez.

He loved cooking and entertaining, and was a member of the Andalucían Academy of Gastronomy, and was the first foreigner to be made a knight of The Very Noble and Illustrious Order of the Wooden Spoon.  He once commented that the food of Spain was the story of Spain.  Several of his book launches were held at the restaurant, Moro, in Exmouth Market whose owners, Sam and Sam Clark, were good friends.

Shortly before his death Michael married his long time partner, and first reader of his books, Jackie Rae, and he was working on a book on Velázquez’ Las Meninas for Granta.

A measure of how much he was admired and loved in Spain, was that within two days of his death, obituaries were published in El Pais, and in the Granada newspaper Granada Hoy,  praising him as an intellectual full of life, with passion reminiscent of Don Quijote and the good humour of Sancho Panza.

Michael Jacobs will be missed by friends and Hispanophiles everywhere for his energy, love of life and adventure, for his knowledge and learning lightly worn, and for his hospitality, friendship and modesty.

Gail Turner Mooney