Bullfighting, also known as tauromachia is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France, India, and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru) in which one or more bulls are baited, and then slaughtered in a bullring for sport and entertainment. Whereas the popularity of this sport has fallen in the past few hundred years, it is still regarded as a “fine art” by some (and a bloodsport by others). Per usual, traditional, culture, and sport are mired in controversy.
Whatever one’s stance on the activity may be, it still cannot be argued that the professional toreros (also called “matadors”) and the bullring has captured the imagination of many artists throughout the years. The colors, the speed, and the marvel of a show create a vignette in which humanity and mortality are often on display. I have never been to a bullfight, nor do I really condone the practice – but in the end it is not my religions, culture, or history. So much of this world is based on attempting to understand the importance and significance of another people’s past. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual which is judged by aficionados (bullfighting fans) based on artistic flourishes and a man’s command of animal. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”
Edouard Manet , Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of a Matador, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1862 – (An early instance of cross dressing and “passing” in art, Manet purposely includes a pink sash and a reprint of Goya’s bull’s behind Victorine.)
SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 14, 2007, CONTEMPORARY ART, FRANCIS BACON, 1909-1992, STUDY FOR BULLFIGHT NO. 1, 2ND VERSION , signed, titled, and dated 1969 on the reverse , oil on canvas , 78¾ x 58? in. 200 x 147.7 cm.
VILLEGAS CORDERO, José (Sevilla, 1844 – Madrid, 1921), La muerte del maestro, Óleo sobre Lienzo, 330 x 505 cm., h. 1884, Image via Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla
Pablo Picasso, Bullfight, the death of the torero (Course de taureaux – la mort du torero)
Rene Daniels, Painting on the Bullfight, 1985, Photo by Peter Cox, Image found HERE (The colors and quickness of the bullfight reduced to abstraction!)
Jacqueline Kennedy, her hostess the Duchess of Alba, and the Countess of Romanones attend a bullfight in Seville, 1966, Image found HERE.
Magazine: Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Issue: March 2012, Editorial: Before Night Falls, Model: Wang Xiao |Wilhelmina|, Stylist: Kenneth Goh |United Management|, Photographer: Simon Upton, Image found HERE.
Kiss of the Matador, Vogue Japan, Image found HERE.
Oscar de la Renta is inspired by Cubism and Matadors in this collection, found HERE.
Emilio Pucci 2012 matador skirt, HERE.