THE TOP TEN FLAMENCO OF ALL TIME
Who are the most famous flamenco artists of all time? And would it be possible to list them on a Top 10 Flamenco Hispanic artists list ?
Sabicas, Carmen Amaya, Camarón de la Isla: there is no doubting about them for their originality and influence. And the same goes for Paco de Lucía, as well as Morente, Mercé, Galván…; but, is that enough to choose the top ten of all time ? Would it be that easy to compile a list ?
In fine art paintings, many of the most famous artists from art history have Hispanic origins: Dalí and Goya top the list. And the top ten of all time were recently posted on Wikipedia. Here they are listed below, in chronological order.
“El Greco”, Doménicos Theotokópoulos (1541-1614)
This artist was actually Greek but lived and worked in Italy and then Toledo, Spain for much of his career. El Greco (The Greek) was a painter and sculptor of the Renaissance and is perhaps best known for his figurative, religious paintings that depict people with elongated bodies. El Greco was influenced by Italian Renaissance greats Michelangelo, Raphael, Correggio and Parmigianino. (Not a cheese, I assure you.)
Francisco Zurbarán (1598-1664)
A Spanish painter sometimes referred to as the Spanish Caravaggio because of his successful use of chiaroscuro, characterized by sharp, contrasting light and dark. Zurbarán was best known for his religious paintings and for his still-lifes.
Diego Velazquez (1599-1660)
A Spanish Baroque painter who was the lead artist for King Philip IV of Spain. While he painted during the Baroque period, his style could be categorized as realistic and individualistic. Velazquez’ portraits of commoners and noblemen influenced such artists as Édouard Manet, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1611-1682)
A Spanish Baroque painter most known for his religious works, he also created portraits of contemporary women and children from everyday life. Murillo was influenced by Spanish artists Velazquez and Zurbarán, and helped to start the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Fine Arts) in Seville in Spain in 1660.
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)
An Aragonese Spanish painter and printmaker most famous for his paintings of Spanish royalty and his artworks of social commentary. One of Goya’s most famous paintings is entitled the Third of May 1808 and depicts Spanish resistance fighters being shot firing squad style by the invading Napoleon’s army. While perhaps tame by today’s standards, this painting by Goya was revolutionary not just for its overt content but also for its implied message of the horrors of war.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
An Andalusian Spanish painter and sculptor acknowledged as one of the most influential artists in the world of art history. Picasso went through several stylistic periods in his artwork that included the Blue Period (1901-1904) and the Rose Period. (1904-1906) Perhaps one of Picasso’s greatest achievements was the co-founding of Cubism which must be shared with his artist colleague Georges Braque, as well as with the African masks and sculptures which inspired Picasso’s work. (And a tip of the artistic lid to Paul Cezanne who also had a painterly hand in the invention of Cubism.)
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
A Mexican muralist and active communist, Diego painted murals in Mexico City, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City. Rivera’s murals were usually figurative, narrative paintings that glorified the worker and incorporated bold colors and undulating shapes.
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
A Spanish Catalan painter and sculptor who was part of the Surrealist art movement of the mid-20th Century, but who as an iconoclast refused to officially join the Surrealists. Miró had an overtly defiant attitude toward conventional painting and claimed he wanted to “assassinate painting”. His artwork often incorporated bright colours and whimsical shapes.
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
A Spanish Catalan painter who is one of the best-known artists in the history of the world. Dali was part of the Surrealist art movement that was most active during the 1920s to the 1950s. Paintings such as The Persistence of Memory (you know, the melting watches), and his collaborative films made with Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel have influenced generations of artists and filmmakers.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
A Mexican painter most known for her autobiographical paintings and self-portraits, as well as for her tumultuous marriages to Diego Rivera (see above). Recent movies and books about Kahlo have created a resurgence in the popularity of her artworks and her story.
Who then are the most famous Flamenco artists ? We forget that there are truths that endure, no matter how transformed the landscape may be.
Dealing with constant change does not mean chasing the latest trend. Yet Antonio Ruiz, La Argentinita and Antonio Gades despite their immeasurable impact, do not seem to have a strong following on Wikipedia.
Camarón de la Isla is the most famous flamenco artist of modern times. His 1979 album, La Leyenda del Tiempo, is often referred to as ‘the Sgt Pepper of flamenco’ and it helped usher in a new style of flamenco called ‘nuevo flamenco‘.
One of the most popular traditional female artists today is Carmen Linares, said by many to have one of the best female voices ever.
In recent years, flamenco has often been fused with other styles of music with great success. Radio Tarifa have melded traditional flamenco with even older medieval instruments from Africa and the Middle East. Ojos de Brujo have taken a more modern approach by adding hip-hop elements such as scratching and the odd bit of rapping into the mix. The 80s were a key era for new forms of flamenco, with Ketama and Pata Negra among the more successful acts of the time. (aunque sobre gustos…, los colores)
After world renowned guitarist Paco de Lucía -who was possibly the most famous flamenco exponent- passed away at the age of 66, a Top-12 was announced by a Spanish newspaper :
José Mercé, Sara Baras, Farruquito, Estrella Morente, Miguel Poveda, Vicente Amigo, Israel Galván, Eva la Yerbabuena, Marina Heredia, El Pele, Carmen Linares and Tomatito were listed in the ranking presented by ABC Cultural in March 2014 as follows : ‘Desaparecidos Paco de Lucía, Enrique Morente y Camarón de la Isla, nos hemos preguntado quién ocupará el trono vacante del flamenco. Apostamos por los doce artistas del presente y el futuro.’