Lured into the intoxicating world of bars, theatres, musical halls and cafe cabarets, Burra’s experience in Paris and amongst the eclectic crowds in the South of France had a fundamental impact on the direction of his art in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. He spent hours sitting in the street-side cafes and bars soaking up the atmosphere and observing the acute idiosyncrasies of the passing crowds. Dated to around this time, the present work was painted at the height of his interest in the heady French bohemian underworld and clearly displays his fascination with all things theatrical, drawing on the dancers he would have encountered in the theatre halls in Paris, and his great imagination. Closely relating to similar works such as Flamenco Dancer (1931-2, Private Collection), the dancing figure also provides the genesis for his depiction of female heroines such as Mae West (1934-5, Private Collection) seen in later works.
Although it was not until 1933 that Burra finally visited Spain - with his close friend Conrad Aiken, Aiken’s wife Clarissa, and the young writer Malcolm Lowry – here he captures the Spanish flair with great gusto and theatricality, whilst showcasing the artist’s unrivalled understanding of the medium of watercolour. An exhilarating combination of actual and imagined realities, Flamenco Band fuses together the kitsch glamour embodied by the flamboyantly polka-dotted diamanté dress of the female dancer, with the everyday grittiness of the insalubrious guitarists seated behind.
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