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.
Gustavo Adolfo wrote his fundamental works between 1861 and 1865, which he published in press or remained as manuscripts —this is the case of his poetry included in the book entitled Libro de los gorriones—until he passed away un december of 1870 and his friends compiled them in the first edition of his Obras (1871), as homage to the unfortunate artist. These circumstances will be analyzed in this conference, as well as how they determined his posterior reading, first in bibliographical key, and later paying more attention to the complexity of his work as his full production began to be known, at the same time his uniqueness began to be perceived beyond the interested historiographic lectures that made him look as an artist imitator of the German poets like Heine (Schneider, 1914), or English like Byron (Hendrix, 1936).
Nowadays, thanks to less interested and more objective lectures, he is simply located among the great European romantic writers, giving a universal dimension to his work. A work whose characteristics will be defined along the conference by analyzing the combination of relevant aspects in his poetic theory, particularly his Rimas y Leyendas, and by paying special attention to his works most familiar to the assisting audience.
Like in other great European romantics, in his work we find elements that come from the best Western tradition in the wider sense —Greek and Latin classics, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes or Calderón—, together with others originating in the research on Germanic and Oriental traditions. The modernity of Bécquer lies in his affiliation to this multiple and universal tradition, in which he integrates with natural grace due to his incredible writing capacity.