The avant-garde movement in Spanish painting is inevitably the expressive and synthetic testimony of a specifically Spanish reality, constantly subject to the permanent requirements of Art. This reality, which is historical because of its lack of stability and durability, depends upon conditions imposed by time, but it has managed, nevertheless, to survive in the Spanish setting for many years and even for many countries. This explains why although one cannot argue that it was born as the result of a deliberate aim to create "something Spanish", present-day Spanish art is thoroughly Spanish and reveals family characteristics that confirm the legitimacy of its parentage. It is true that the tendency which stood out in the classical painters as a strongly realistic one promoted by crude feeling, in line with the tenets handed on by the old Masters, has become expressionism of a most violent kind in the avant-garde painters of today.
In needs little though to realize that the expressionist branches of this family spring some from the same realistic trunk. It is equally obvious that they are alike in nature; just as realism is governed by a very high capacity for expression, so expressionism is in its turn subjected to considerable pressure by reality.
In a world, where all painting was representative by definition, realism could not identify itself purely by giving a faithful representation of reality. That kind of painting was realistic, because it was directly governed by reality and not by the representation of it. This was because it was not meditated by Plato's ideal concept of form; the concept whereby the great Italian Renaissance painters, for example, insisted that what established contact with the spectator was the harmonious play of ideally conceived forms, rather than any expression of the reality they represented.
In the case of the great Italian classical masterpieces the meditating formulas were precisely concerned with glossing over all the more unpleasant features of everybody life, producing a sort of evened-out, average life, pattern and class, half way between actual reality and its expression. In the case of Spanish painting, however, reality was brought nearer to its expression by the powerful urgency, the peremptory and dramatic substances of life itself; it was a rough, uncouth way of life, with no allowances made for any sort of mediatization or idealization - it lacked a middle way, it lacked even middle-class. This total absence of half-measures made Spain a country of great contrasts.
Painting is the more expressive the less ideally subject, it is to any law of formal proportions. Expression implies a break with the law that propounds the equation of formal balance. The gesture, which leads to expression, is precisely one that breaks away from the law of impassivity and the terms, which would enforce the balancing of forms. The strength of Spanish classical painting derives from its indifference to the lack of formal compensation and its natural leanings towards gesticulate de-compensation: Expressivities. Thus its realism was ultimately based on capacity for expression.
The expressionism, revealed in the most important paintings of the second Spanish avant-garde movement, derives from its closeness to reality. What is this reality? It is an essentially the same as the one we find in Spanish classical painting. It is reality born of a rough, hand-to-mouth way of life, and a reality little concerned with idealist mediatization. The realism of the Old Masters was justified by its expressivities; the expressionism of the avant-garde is justified by its reality.