Description & Technical information

The present sheet is part of a series of drawings of bullfighting scenes executed in 1956, during the first of Domenico Gnoli’s many visits to the Balearic island of Mallorca. Gnoli’s drawings were published in the American magazine Holiday the following year, under the title The Village Bullfight.  Seven ink drawings from the series were exhibited at the Arthur Jeffress Gallery in London in January and February 1957. Apart from the present Picador Iand Picador II, the other five drawings were subtitled Two Picadors, Behind the Barrera, Inside and Outside, Picador Riding In and Picador Riding Out. 

As a Times review of the exhibition noted, ‘Mr. Gnoli’s drawings are complex, fantasticated, and full of busy goings-on of a mildly satirical absurdity...The success of imaginative excursions of this sort depends largely on the ability of the never-never land that has been created to sustain a measure of internal plausibility by which even the most extravagant oddities become, in context, the correct and acceptable thing. The world of Mr. Gnoli’s drawings may seem a largely synthetic and artificial one, but it does establish a sense of its own private logic by its exorbitant amount of quite rational detail.’

Another anonymous review of the same exhibition expressed the opinion that ‘Dominic Gnoli is an anachronism in draughtsmanship, a modern in paint. His drawings, more meticulous than Osbert Lancaster, more fantastic than Phiz, are full of ships and towers. The myriad Lillyputian figures of bullfighters, trippers, mariners and indeterminate crowds attendant have a sophisticated whimsy which would fit a period pantomime. Gnoli’s little people are cleverly stuffed stage props.’

The first owner of the present sheet was Helen Melville Russell-Cooke, née Smith (1898-1973), whose father was Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic.

Titled Picador n.1 in a cartouche at the upper left.

Medium: Pen and black ink and watercolour
Signature: Signed and dated D. Gnoli / 56 and numbered 18 on the old backing board. Illegibly inscribed in pencil on the verso.

Dimensions: 49.5 x 34.9 cm (19¹/₂ x 13³/₄ inches)
Provenance: Arthur Jeffress Gallery, London, in 1957
Purchased from them by Helen Melville Russell-Cooke
Bequeathed by her to Anthony and Marietta Coleridge, London.

Literature: Annie de Garrou Gnoli, ‘Catalogo ragionato’, in Vittorio Sgarbi, L’opera grafica di Domenico Gnoli, Milan, 1985, p.156 (not illustrated); Carlo Barbatti and Giulia Lotti, ‘A Life in Pictures and Documents: 1933-70’, in Germano Celant et al, Domenico Gnoli, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 2021-2022, p.72.

Exhibitions: London, Arthur Jeffress (Pictures) Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Dominic Gnoli, 1957, no.18.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints