Jose Maria Manzanares the Bullfighter who I have painted several portraits of and who has one himself invited me to see him fight at the La Maestranza Bullring during the annual Seville Fair. It is the site of one of the most well-known bullfighting festivals in the world and is a part of the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, a noble guild established for traditional cavalry training.
The ring built in 1749 is considered one of the world's most challenging environments because of its history, characteristics, and viewing public, which is considered one of the most unforgiving in all of bullfighting fandom.
The Seville Fair dates back to 1847 when it was originally organized as a livestock fair by two councillors born in Northern Spain and on 18 April 1847 the first fair was held at the Prado de San Sebastian, on the outskirts of the city. It took only one year before an air of festivity began to transform the fair, due mainly to the emergence of the first three casetas, belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, the Town Hall, and the Casino of Seville. During the 1920s, the fair reached its peak and became the spectacle that it is today.
It is hard to put to words this experience, there is no question that to understand it you have to see it. No book, no film no TV show can truly make you feel the magic of the Seville Fair. I don't want to go to into much detail about the bullfight for I know that this a sensitive matter for many and I respect this, I too am an animal lover.
Its a custom that Im sure will eventually disappear. I don't want to defend or criticize it but the adrenaline I felt from watching it was indescribable. The bullfight took me to Francis Bacons paintings and how he questioned societies approach to “death”. My mind also travelled to James Micheners IBERIA when Spain in the 50s and 60s experienced its first years of touristic boom. As Michener put it “I was to see the Spain that men have written about for two thousand years…”
We left Seville at night and drove the winding road back down to Ronda where we would be staying at the Hotel Reina Victoria. Let me explain a little about this hotel which has an unusual history and must be told.
The Algeciras Gibraltar Railway Company was created by British businessmen to build the Algeciras-Bobadilla railway line between Algeciras and Bobadilla, Antequera, the first section of track was laid in 1888. The first train was purchased from Beyer, Peacock and Company in Manchester. A first class return ticket from Gibraltar to Ronda was set at 17.10 pesetas. It was built for the benefit of British officers stationed in Gibraltar wanting to travel to Spain and the rest of Europe. To avoid offending Spanish sensitivities, the line was built concluding in Algeciras, a town in Spain on the opposite side of the Bay of Gibraltar, rather than at the Gibraltar border.
Two hotels were also built by the company along the route, such the Hotel Reina Cristina in Algeciras and the Hotel Reina Victoria in Ronda both designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt.
Our reason to stop in Ronda wasn't only to explore this stunning town but to visit a Dressage Centre run by our friend. Here I had the unique opportunity to have access to Jose Carlos Castillo an international Dressage Coach. With my camera in hand and listening to his words I was drawn further into this beautiful sport. A sport that I have been painting for some time and will continue to for my next Show.
My focus is now on the production for my next Show, soon you will have more details.