In Paris, in 1995, I heard a woman say to a man, in, Spanish, "tell me an unforgettable story". I would have told her stories that ocurred all in one place centuries ago. Stories that mix blood and blessings, the grotesque with the sublime, reality and fantasy:
A teary eyed sultan called Boabdil looking for the last time at the key of his lost kingdom. A father called "The Good", giving the enemy his own daggar to kill his son. A mass suicide leaving in its wake an ashen landscape called Numancia. A corpse once called "El Cid" that wins his last battle tied and propped up on his horse. A queen that refuses to be seen naked by her king called "The Bewitched". A queen called "The Mad" that refuses to bury her king called "The Beautiful"...
History under Franco dictatorship was part of the popular culture; it was, for the generation of the post civil war, our Campbell's soup which instead of lentils gave us mythical warriors, miraculous conquests, and the madness of love: a soup with a strong surrealist taste.
Historic events were depicted in the school books by little drawings not unlike those in popular comics. They were sketchy copies of paintings done with exuberant imagination and sharp color in the nineteenth century. The genre of "Historic painting" of academic panache, heroic panorama and glassy surface had been reduced, more than a century ago, to what today is called kitsch. It is the norm that any artistic reference to a subject matter considered kitsch most be cast in irony.
At the heart of any story is the gesture that tells all. The drawing in the school book doesn't show it but it is somewhere in the story. The child sees it. The painter wants to see it closer.