Biography of Leonardo Alenza Nieto (1807-1845)

Spanish Romantic painter who cultivated the traditional themes with satirical slant most of the time. He/She was born in Madrid in 1807 in a very humble family and died in pure misery in that same city in 1845. Attracted the painting as a child, he/she studied at the Academy of San Fernando, under the direction of Madrazo, Aparicio and Ribera. In 1833, painted by custom, two pictures of historical circumstances: the science and arts mourning the death of Fernando VII and proclamation of Elizabeth II. Later, in 1835, he/she painted death of Daoiz. However, the bulk of its production is made up of small-size oil paintings and drawings of popular songs with a touch of irony, that sometimes come to the satire, as is the case with the pair of squares parody titled the romantic, that made him the main figure of the Spanish traditional romanticism; in this series, it gives a distorted image of the romantic artist similar to which Mesonero Romanoshad given of the romantics in his matritenses scenes. Unfortunately, the critics of his time despised his art and he/she ended his days ruined completely; somehow, this rejection of the work of Alenza has continued over time and is the explanation of unjustified ignorance of one of the first artists of the romantic period Spanish, comparable to the best of the Goyas.

Alenza knew no rival in terms of its ability to observe reality, the ease of drawing and expertise in the application of those dark colors so characteristic of his art, although he/she knew how to dominate other many records. He/She painted pictures of barriobajeras scenes, villains, frauds, blind copleros, Gypsies and other types and folkloric scenes according to the taste of the moment, as the built-in collection Spaniards painted by themselves. It reflected the popular element of the Spain between the end of the war of independence and the half of century years. His style shows reflections of Goya, which never had the commitment of copy: If artistic matches, these were due to the strength of the environment. Therefore, Alenza is studied as one of the main portraitists of the black Spain and as one of the main links in a long chain that has its milestones in Goya and Solana in painting; in the writings of Valle-Inclán or Azcona and indents in the films directed by Ferreri and Berlanga. He/She was author also of great portraits like Passuti, Alejandro de la Peña or D. Agustín Argüelles, in addition to its magnificent self-portrait; all they placed him at the head of the portrait painters of the 19th century, along with Federico de Madrazo and other big names. You must not forget their wide range of graphic collaborations in the Renaissance and picturesque Spanish weekly magazines.

Leonardo Alenza: Drawing. National Library.


MESONERO ROMANOS, r., Leonardo Alenza, in his Manual of Madrid, Madrid, 1854.