Cristóbal Balenciaga himself became an art collector and was friends with artists. Perhaps that's why the most admired and influential Spanish designer of all time has never lacked inspiration. Painting, the power of the Catholic Church, bullfighting, flamenco, and other references of Spanish culture, with mucho salero, marked the work of the designer, who masterfully established the parallelism between different but transverse worlds. Sewing and brushes are one example, and the temporary exhibition “Balenciaga and Spanish Culture” has portrayed this relationship in the huge rooms of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, in Madrid. It recently proposed two trips in time: one to the Balenciaga era and another to the Spanish painting between the 16th and 20th centuries. In practice, “a conversation between art and fashion” was created – according to curator Eloy Martínez de la Pera. Inside the museum 55 historical works by masters of Spanish painting, and dozens of couture pieces by the designer, some of them never seen before, lived side by side. A seductive and intimate visual universe, made possible thanks to the involvement of private national and international collectors, as well as several Spanish museums. 

The influence of black on Balenciaga's work was a guiding thread of the exhibition, and highlighted the way he was inspired by the simple and minimalist lines of religious habits portrayed by Goya, in the theatrical volumes painted in a different century by Francisco de Zurbarán, in the portrait of Queen Isabella of Aragon, in the ruffles of the dress of Doña María del Rosario de Silva and Gurtubay, XVII Duchess of Alba, painted by Ignacio Zuloaga, and in the mesmerising bolero of Julia Peraire, the lover of Ramón Casas Carbó, portrayed by himself. Velazquez and El Grego also rhyme with Balenciaga's creations. They had their own room, and together they made this a one-of-a-kind exhibition, where visitors could see the wedding dress of General Francisco Franco's granddaughter, Carmen Martínez-Bordiú, the last that the designer crafted in the run-up to his retirement, in 1968. Before, Balenciaga had to leave Spain and head for Paris, where he held his first fashion show, becoming one of the greatest in world fashion. So great that other prestigious designers surrendered to Cristóbal's talent.



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