Born into a family of painters, since his childhood he became familiar with the cultivation of painting, music and literature in Seville, a city that was going through a period of modernisation that was projected in the arts with unique force. From then on, he would pay attention to all of the arts, especially painting and literature, but he also wrote music criticism and zarzuela libretti. This lecture will analyse the activities he carried out in support of these arts and his critical vocation from his early years until his arrival in Madrid (Autumn 1854) and his insertion in the capital’s artistic life. The substance of his aesthetic program was gradually put together prior to 1860, with a progressive broadening of horizons, propitiated from his arrival in Madrid by his participation in a richer and more varied cultural world than has sometimes been stated: his relationship to orientalists like Manuel de Assas was decisive, as was his work as a librettist for pieces of music theatre that introduced him into the Espín’s salon, where he would meet Julia Espín, to whom he would dedicate poems and drawings and with whose father —the composer Joaquín Espín y Guillen— he teamed up to write zarzuela libretti.
No less important was his participation in discussions where he met young artists who helped him to broaden his artistic ideas. Among them, of particular importance was the poet Augusto Ferrán Forniés from Madrid, who introduced him to the works of important European poets such as Lord Byron and Heinrich Heine; or storytellers such as the Brothers Grimm or the Polish writer Mickievick. Reading their works helped him to finish defining his aestheic, which would materialise over the ensuing years, especially in his Rimas and Leyendas.
Throughout this lecture, the story of his life will be accompanied by an analysis of his aesthetic ideas and the importance that the dialogue with the arts came to have for him as an instrument capable of resolving, to a certain extent, the deficiencies of words.