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José Ortiz Echagüe. Tradition and Attire

Bárbara Mur Borrás

Centro de Arte Alcobendas
Centro de Arte Alcobendas — Calle de Mariano Sebastian Izuel, nº 9, 28100 Alcobendas, Madrid  

  • Lun-sáb / Mon-Sat:
    11.00 h - 20.00 h

Entrada libre / Free admission
METRO: Marqués de Valdavia. CERCANÍAS: Alcobendas – San Sebastián de los Reyes

An engineer by profession, José Ortiz Echagüe was the founder of two of the most important companies in Spain: C.A.S.A. and SEAT, yet he went down in history because of his passionate hobby: photography. He was given his first camera in 1898 and went on to take thousands of pictures in the ensuing 70-plus years. He exhibited his works in cities like Paris and in museums like the Metropolitan in New York, and in 1935 the magazine American Photography called him one of the best photographers in the world.


Through photography, Ortiz Echagüe found a clear purpose: to immortalise the Spanish tradition from the early 20th century, aware that it might soon begin to disappear because of the gradual modernisation and industrial development which he witnessed firsthand through the two companies he ran.


His photographs span documentary and what was then called artistic photography. He himself hand-developed each picture using the artisan technique of direct carbon printing on Fresson paper, which made each and every one of them unique and unmistakable. This process gave his pictures an appearance closer to an engraving than a photograph by softening the outlines and highlighting the details. This procedure ensconced his work within the photographic trend of pictorialism and made him its leading representative in Spain.


Ortiz Echagüe had enormous visual talent which he harnessed to capture landscapes, the peoples who inhabited them and their attire at popular festivals. He masterfully photographed the folklore of Spain, capturing the most distinctive features of a people and offering the image of a timeless society whose personages and their garb glorify tradition and mark their cultural identity. From the clothing worn for everyday chores to the costumes for special celebrations, he connected photography and the fibre arts.


José Ortiz Echagüe was unquestionably one of the most outstanding figures in Spanish photography, one who shared our country’s customs and image all over the world through his works, pictures of the past which will endure forever.
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