Ramiro Arrue again headed up the beautiful selection of works by Basque painters in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This one was a gift to his friend, writer Marc Légasse.
Ramiro Arrue (1892-1971), La Procession (The Procession), c. 1923, signed oil on canvas, 55 x 38 cm/21.66 x 14.97 in.
The painting is a full-scale version of a small gouache that Arrue (1892-1971) gave to the Musée Basque in Bayonne. It features what must have been one of his favorite themes—processions—while giving it more brightness and color. The powerful work is more than just a portrait gallery. In his monumental style, Arrue painted four people marching in front of a banner towards the viewer against a background typical of the Basque country’s landscape and architecture. He depicted them as members of various generations united body and soul by a single culture.
“The overriding trend in his work,” Basque artist and historian Philippe Veyrin wrote about the gouache in the Bayonne museum in Le Bulletin du Musée Basque, “consists of expressing the inner lives of landscapes and people through intelligent, harmonious compositions and the calm lines of very pure drawing. He manages to depict not just the outward aspect but the very soul of Basques and their country.”
The work was so important to Arrue that he gave it to his friend Marc Légasse (1918-1997). His descendants have owned it until today. It must have had a deeply symbolic resonance: Légasse, an important Basque shipowner, was also a writer, political activist and founder of the French Basque country’s independence movement. He owned around 30 cod-fishing boats, founded the Compagnie générale de grande pêche-La Morue française (the General Fishing Company -French Cod) and went into politics after the Second World War. In 1945 he was a nationalist candidate in the cantonal elections and campaigned for the creation of a Basque department. He even did a stint in prison for comments about “the French occupier” and state interference in Basque affairs.