Thursday, January 27

Ricardo Bastid, the domestic museum of the painter and writer who portrayed Franco’s repression

The attic in Valencia of Milde Tomás, niece of the painter and writer Ricardo Bastid (Valencia, 1919 – Buenos Aires, 1966), has the walls literally full of paintings by the artist. The entire house is decorated with the works of a painter who suffered and portrayed Franco’s repression, on canvas and in writing. The woman has spent years fighting for the artist’s pictorial legacy to survive in good condition in the hands of a public institution and for Bastid’s literary work to be known.

“I have always thought of making a legacy of his war and postwar work, I would be very sorry if they were lost, they are for the people”, assures Milde Tomás Bastid during a visit to his home. Meanwhile, Ricardo Bastid’s works are “sleeping the sleep of the just” and decorating a house that serves as a makeshift museum for all those friends and academics interested in Franco’s repression and in Republican exile. Researchers Pablo Allepuz and Óscar Chaves, in charge of the recent edition of the painter’s unpublished novel, also attend the appointment with The buried years (Renaissance, 2021), two young specialists in art, repression and exile who, after years following the artist’s trail, have become friends with their niece.

Ricardo Bastid, from a wealthy middle-class family, enjoyed a tolerant upbringing in Republican educational institutions. In his adolescence he cultivated the friendship of characters such as Ricardo Muñoz Suay, Vicente Soto or Ricardo Orozco, which he would maintain until his tragic and premature death in exile. After fighting in the communist ranks during the Civil War, the painter hid in Valencia during the postwar period while the Social Political Brigade, the political police of the dictatorship, harassed the family, as his niece Milde Tomás recalls, who told him fragmentarily about his mother, sister of the painter. The foundational fear of the postwar experience was transmitted to the next generation, as in many other Republican families, as the person in charge of the peculiar domestic museum attests.

In 1946, Bastid moved to Madrid together with Ricardo Muñoz Suay to fulfill the risky mission commissioned by the Communist Party of Spain to reorganize the University School Federation (FUE). There he is arrested, tortured and imprisoned in Alcalá de Henares and Las Ventas. His terrible experience in the General Directorate of Security (where he would also be arrested and tortured on a second occasion) reflected it in Sun Gate, a first-rate testimony about Franco’s repression that the painter’s niece intends to reissue.

After obtaining parole on March 13, 1949, the artist obtained permission as a copyist at the Prado Museum and married Carmen Tapia Guevara, whom he had met in the FUE environment. Six years later, Ricardo Bastid is arrested again and spends three months in the infamous dungeons of the General Directorate of Security (DGS).

“Converted to little less than one of the characters in his paintings, Bastid crosses the border with France on July 16, 1956 – twenty years after the start of the war in Spain – loaded with an easel, canvas, paintings and a permit from an hour to undertake a landscape, “write the editors of the unpublished novel in the introduction. However, after an hour he did not return from the neighboring country.

When a month later, his wife managed to cross the border, the couple settled in Paris for a time before setting sail on January 14, 1957 for Buenos Aires, for permanent exile. In the Argentine capital, Bastid worked for publishers such as Losada, Fabril and Códex. “They are late exiles,” says Milde Tomás.

In Buenos Aires he wrote Sun Gate and the newly edited The buried years. “He tried to elaborate a fictional aesthetic theory by dialoguing with Ortega y Gasset”, explains Pablo Allepuz. “The novel has a lot to do with that liminal space that he occupies as a late exile and writer and artist,” adds Óscar Chaves, who maintains that the concept of generation is one of the “structural principles” of the work published in the Exile Library collection of the Renacimiento publishing house.

The artist’s niece read the novel when she was young Sun Gate, one of the main testimonies about the dungeons of the Francoist DGS. “It was very difficult for me to read because I saw autobiographical elements that were told in my house,” she says surrounded by her uncle’s paintings. Researchers have traced the artist’s scattered archive, his fragmentary correspondence and oral testimonies such as that of the historian Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz, among many other elements that have allowed them to trace the trajectory of Ricardo Bastid.

Both researchers highlight Milde Tomás’ effort to disseminate and care for her uncle’s work. His mother, María Matilde Bastid, bequeathed some of the artist’s works to the Vicente Aguilera Cerni Contemporary Art Museum in Vilafamés. In 2016, the original documents from the artist’s personal archive were bequeathed to the Valencian Library. In addition to several academic meetings that have dealt with the work of the painter and writer, the Delegation of Historical Memory of the Diputación de Valencia intends to reissue Sun Gate, which is currently discontinued.

The family kept paintings and portraits of the painter from his time in Spain and managed to repatriate other canvases from Argentina. It also preserves the correspondence and the unique objects that Ricardo Bastid built in prison for his wife, such as a precious letter file carved in wood and in the form of a book. The selfless effort of his niece has been key to the dissemination of Ricardo Bastid’s work. “I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel”, says Milde Tomás before the works that he keeps in his domestic museum.