William Ewart Lockhart,   Un curandero en Sevilla
Óleo sobre lienzo, 45 x 35 cm.
William Ewart Lockhart (Dumfrieshire, Scotland 1846 – London, 1900)
A Quack Doctor in Seville, oil on canvas, 18.11 x 13.77 inches.
Lockhart began to study painting at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in 1860. The next year, at age 15, he first exhibited at the RSA’s annual exhibition. He would present paintings in this exhibition each year for the rest of his life, except in 1889 and 1990, when he was engaged in a special commission for Queen Victoria: a huge painting to commemorate the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of her accession to the throne in Westminster Abbey. This painting, The Jubilee Celebration in Westminster Abbey, June 21, 1887, is still in the collections of the British royal family.
Lockhart settled in Edinburgh when his training was over. He visited Spain for the first time in 1867 and many times thereafter; indeed, although he painted many landscapes of the British Isles, and portraits of important British personages, today his Spanish scenes are considered his most important works.
His Spanish paintings include some historic themes like The Cid and The Five Moorish Kings, two paintings in the Edinburgh Museum, as well as genre paintings of Spanish types and customs like The Swine-herd in the McManus gallery of Dundee.
Our oil is a smaller version of another of the same subject which must have been very successful at the time. It is signed and dated in 1871. For Spanish art, this was very early to find such a modern technique based on quick and confident brush strokes. Lockhart catches the characters of the Spanish peasants of the period with real mastery and represents many small details in a very fine way. The complex composition is pervaded with life and movement and reflects very well the way that a fair would look at that time in Spain.
The central figure, a quack doctor, belongs to a set of Spanish characters which were very popular in 17th century painting and literature. He is a version of the Pícaro, or swindler, a decadent character always trying to abscond with some food or make some money by cheating people. Pícaros are common in Spanish literature, often portrayed as ingenious rascals; they are thieves with good hearts but never bad criminals. The doctor in this painting is trying to sell some miraculous medicine and rides a mule adorned with typical mule trappings, providing a colorful detail at the center of the composition.
Although the scene takes place in 1871, there are several connections to the Spanish Baroque period: not just the quack doctor but the boy holding the mule, who is very close to some of Velasquez’ figures.
In the background is the Sevillian tower called the Torre del Oro and behind it, a church steeple, the large number of which always caught the attention of British artists visiting Spain.