A Bacarisas painting. / SUR

23 September 1872: Artist Gustavo Bacarisas was born in Gibraltar

The work of this prolific and much-travelled artist attracted attention at an early age and he received commissions from royals and governments, among many others

Debbie Bartlett

Nobody who spends any time in Gibraltar can fail to become aware of artist Gustavo Bacarisas, as his works are very much in evidence and an art gallery in Casemates Square bears his name.

This prolific international artist was born in Gibraltar on 23 September 1872 and his talent was spotted at a young age. He was so good that in 1892 at the age of 19 a group of local businessmen funded a scholarship for him to study art in Rome, at the Spanish Academy of Fine Arts.

In Italy, his impressionist paintings immediately began to attract attention. He produced a self-portrait in 1902, and won first prize for a pastel portrait called Young Lady at an exhibition. His work was even praised by the Italian king and queen.

In 1905 he moved to Paris and then went on to London to study further, before settling in Buenos Aires for a few years.

When he left Argentina he travelled around America before settling in Seville, Spain, in 1914. The following year he took part in the National Fine Arts Competition in Madrid and his painting Sevilla en Fiestas was said to have been the most commented-on work by the public.

He continued to travel and received commissions from royals and governments alike, and expanded his skills by designing theatre sets and costumes and producing sculptures and ceramics. He even created a special 'Bacarisas blue', and often used it in his works.

Gibraltar, where the artist was born, was always close to his heart. He returned often and lived there on and off. On 15 June 1961 he became the first ever Honorary Freeman of Gibraltar, and after he died in Seville in 1971, at the age of 98, his widow presented the people of Gibraltar with a large painting called Mediterranean and Atlantic Fleets in Gibraltar Harbour, which had been his express wish.

The Gibraltar government, which tries to purchase any of his works that come up for sale, has been marking the 150th anniversary of his birth with a number of activities and events this week.