The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
In 'Ada', the Spanish artist Antonio Saura painted a human figure in the middle of the canvas using thick paint and brushstrokes in every direction. He used white and black paint, either pure or mixed to different shades of grey, and a little bit of brown. The environment is painted with a flatter surface in an even, light grey colour. The fact that this is the portrait of a woman is mainly clear from the title. It is possible to distinguish parts of the body such as eyes, a mouth, breasts and arms, but they are above all part of a turbulent scene and the figure does not have any clear contours, gradually merging with the background. The vehement style of painting characteristic of Saura’s work links him to the Abstract Expressionism which developed in America in the 1950s and also had a great deal of influence on contemporary painting in Europe.
However, Saura always used a figurative element as a starting point. He usually worked in series in which certain themes constantly recurred, such as portraits of women, crucifixions or crowds of people. He also made paintings based on the works of old masters, usually Spanish, such as Goya. Saura was not interested in providing an exact representation of the starting point, but with the links to a traditional genre such as the portrait. This genre served above all as the reason for the act of painting. Saura used austere colours throughout his career, and white, black, grey and brown continued to determine his palette as a painter.
At the start of his career as an artist, Saura was confronted with the Franco dictatorship and he reflected on the whole of Spanish history from that perspective. He saw it as a succession of moments of suppression of the individual by traditional forces such as the monarchy and the Church. The love/hate relationship which he developed with his country and its history was expressed in his paintings which are both emotional and controlled. They are not joyful, but they are full of vitality. 'Ada' is not a flattering portrait, but can be seen as an ode to the individual, an ode to the portrait of the woman as a genre and at the same time as a complaint against abuse and domination. Saura explained: “I would rather paint creatures which are positive, innocent and just… as well as real joy. But I certainly cannot. Or perhaps I have done so without knowing it.”
Does this page contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.