It’s a sad fact that cultural genius isn’t always aligned with moral superiority. Possibly no one exemplifies that fact more than German artist Fidus, whose work will certainly be represented here in the near future. Fidus, as a key member of Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach’s early 20th century German nature cult, started out strong, but he eventually found himself under the influence of a new cult: Nazism. Another brilliant artist with questionable allegiances was painter and illustrator Carlos Sáenz de Tejada, who strongly supported the Franco regime in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, although as a Carlist sympathist, a group with its own gripes against the state. Tejada, whose family came from a long line of nobility, at least had a strong reason to support the ultra-nationalist Franco.
Anyway, Tejada was born to Spanish parents (his father a diplomat) in Tangier, Morocco in 1897. His family eventually found themselves in Madrid, where their precocious boy began his art training early under Daniel Cortes, and then José María López Mezquita, and finally–after joining the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando–under one of my very favorite painters, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Soon Tejada was producing tons of illustrations for many famous publications, including La Libertad, Neuvo Mundo, Robe, Jardin des Modes, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Eventually Tejada’s work fell largely into two main disciplines: fashion illustration and pro-nationalist propaganda art. As one might expect, stylistically these two categories of work were almost completely at odds, with his soldiers and workers rendered as strength incarnate–heavily detailed in musculature and angular forms–while his drawings of modish women are generally delicate and lacking in detail. And yet, as we shall see, both are quintessentially Tejada.
The artist was by no means limited to those two artistic themes, however, as we’ll also see; his work runs the gamut from highly formal (but never staid) realist portraits and figurative paintings to his art deco-flavored magazine illustrations to his late career art nouveau-tinged fairy tale illustrations for Juan Ramón Jiménez’s Platero y yo.