Alejandro Mieres The Incredulity of St. Thomas

Inventory no.
on panel
100x85 cm

The Incredulity of St. Thomas forms part of a collection of eight paintings donated by the artist to the University of Oviedo. They correspond to the years 1951-1953, when he was finishing his studies at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid and held his first public exhibition at the Macarrón Gallery. At that time, his life and work was to take another course after reaching the crossroads motivated by attending the Abstract Art Course at Santander Summer University and taking up the teaching of Artistic Drawing at secondary schools in Burgo de Osma, Elche and, from 1960 on, Gijón. That year he settled permanently in Asturias.

The collection consists of ten oil paintings on panels, a technique with medieval roots originally aimed at preserving the painting better than what was possible using canvas. These were joined by a portrait of Rosa, the only work from the set that the artist reserved for his personal collection. From the formal point of view, the works tie in with a neo-figurative schematic expressionism with some touches of the French artist Roualt's articulation of the heavily outlined edges of the figures, highlighted with strong lines and vivid chromatics, which are reminiscent of Fauvist figures and portraits. The style also evokes the contours of the figures painted on ancient Greek pottery. The contained, energetic construction and the static quality conferred on the figures, as well as the dramatic theme and artistic liberties taken, allow this stage of his work to be related to various currents of historical vanguard movements:

Mondrian's composition and some of Picasso's figurative solutions from the 1930s to 50s, with echoes of his treatment of cool tones in the blue period. It should be noted that it was at this time when he discovered the work of José Solana, which was becoming known in Madrid. His study trip to Paris in 1951 allowed him to see an exhibition by Giacometti, make contact with gallery owners and hold his first solo exhibition in in 1952 at the Macarrón Gallery in Madrid. This afforded the then emerging artists like A. Mieres a more than worthy presence, which contrasted with the dominant mediocre post-war painting, as those with creative talent had either gone into exile or were submerged in a kind of self-imposed exile.

These and other works of an expressionist nature were present at this exhibition, from which he came into contact with the "Madrid School" of painters, such as Alvaro Delgado, Francisco San Jose and Luis Saez. Showing in the same gallery as Mieres, though in another exhibit, was his girlfriend and future wife, Rosa Maria Velilla, of whom he painted an excellent portrait in the same expressionist tone, which is at once both vivid and moving.

Lucia Alperi includes this set within the second stage of his artistic production, which goes from his academic training and first exhibitions up until his teaching job at secondary schools before settling in Asturias. It should be noted that there are few surviving examples from this collection, which she qualifies as priceless, because many works were unfortunately burned in a fire at his home in Burgo de Osma in 1958. They testify to the importance of a personal search of renewal within the new artists of reference in the avant-garde styles, consigned to oblivion in Spain in those years. Mieres shows originality in making his way along paths differing from those followed by the then sizeable "Madrid School", devoted to painting portraits, still life and, above all, Castilian and '98-esque landscapes. Curiously enough, after a major stylistic twist, Alejandro Mieres was to employ the latter in the formulation and definition of his future, defining style of abstraction and monochromes of materials modelled by light.

The works were donated following his solo exhibition "Alexander Mieres. Matter and Light", held in Gijón in 1993 at the "Revillagigedo Palace" International Art Centre under the auspices of the Caja de Asturias. Some of them were on public display for the first time at this exhibition, which was curated by the university lecturer Julia Barroso Villar. The artist expressed his gratitude in this way for the effort involved in selecting a body of work that he had cast aside, not being fully aware of its originality and value.

This composition, The Incredulity of St. Thomas, is distinguished by the strong verticality of the five human figures, elongations and strained colouring along with marked, irregular lines. Four standing figures face toward another located at a lower level which symbolizes the saint, on account of his thoughtful, hesitant expression as he raises his hand to his forehead. The central figure presiding the work is a Christ who reveals his ochre torso as he lifts his dark mantle. His powerful, distorted hands, with traces of blood and wounds, enhance the Christian message of the Resurrection as told in the Gospel of St. John (20, 19-29), the appearance of Christ to the apostles and the resulting scene of the incredulity of Thomas: ‘Then he said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here; see my hands. Reach your hand here and put it into my side. Be unbelieving no longer, but believe." Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!".'

The plasticity of the planes –in which the artist uses triangular areas, angular feet and expressionist hands–, the barely defined absent air of the faces and the strong colours make the work connect more with the priority of the result versus the theme that characterized the vanguard as a whole, with its contaminating elements in the case of Spain. With this work Mieres brings a stony feeling to the content despite the emotivism of the hands, expressing a renewal of the sharp pessimism of José Solana, who was, in avant-garde terms, the Spanish artist par excellence at evoking religious themes, in his case of a popular nature. What lend character to the iconography are the solemnity and the absent quality with an emotive touch.

Text and cataloguing: Julia Barroso Villar. Professor of Art History. Honorary Professor, University of Oviedo.

Bibliographical references
  • ALPERI ÁLVAREZ, L. (2011) La obra artística de Alejandro Mieres, Memoria de Investigación de Doctorado, inédita, leída en septiembre de 2011, dirigida por la Prof.ª Dra. Natalia Tielve García, Universidad de Oviedo.
  • BARROSO VILLAR, J. (1985) "La pintura de Alejandro Mieres", en Liño. Revista Anual de Historia del Arte, nº 5. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo.
  • BARROSO VILLAR, J. (1993) Alejandro Mieres: materia y luz [Libro-catálogo], Palacio de Revillagigedo. Oviedo: Caja de Asturias.
  • BARROSO VILLAR, J. (1994) "Religiosidad y vanguardia españolas ¿una asignatura pendiente?". En Los clasicismos en el arte español. Madrid: C.E.H.A.
  • BARROSO VILLAR, J.; L. FEÁS COSTILLA (2002) "Alejandro Mieres", en Artistas asturianos. Pintores (IV). Oviedo: Hércules Astur de Ediciones.
  • BARROSO VILLAR, J.; N. TIELVE (2005), Arte actual en Asturias, un patrimonio en curso. Gijón: Trea.
  • QUIJADA ESPINA, A.; R. RODRÍGUEZ ÁLVAREZ; S. VÁZQUEZ-CANÓNICO COSTALES (2004) Bienes culturales de la Universidad de Oviedo. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo.
  • VILLA PASTUR, J. (1981), Alejandro Mieres. Ensayo crítico-biográfico. Oviedo: Caja de Ahorros de Asturias.
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