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Orueta y Duarte, Ricardo de

    Full Name: Orueta y Duarte, Ricardo de

    Other Names:

    • Ricardo de Orueta

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 07 May 1868

    Date Died: Feburary 2005

    Place Born: Málaga, Málaga, Andalusia, Spain

    Place Died: Madrid, Spain

    Home Country/ies: Spain

    Subject Area(s): Renaissance, Spanish (culture or style), and Spanish Renaissance-Baroque styles

    Institution(s): Ministerio de Bellas Artes Madrid


    Medievalist; Director General of Bellas Artes, Spain, from 1931-1933 and 1936. Orueta was the son of Francisca Duarte Cardenal (1837-1882), and Domingo de Orueta Aguirre (1833-1895) a naturalist and geologist. He was raised in Málaga, Spain where he studied painting at the Escuela de Bellas Artes (School of Fine Arts). He studied under Joaquín Martínez de la Vega (1846-1905) and worked closely with the painter Denis Belgrano (1844-1918). After finishing his studies in Malaga, Orueta moved to Paris and attended the School of Industrial Arts in Paris with French sculptor Aimé Millet (1819-1891). In 1911, he became a professor at the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institution of Education) which was founded by his family friend and education reformer, the philosopher Francisco Giner de los Ríos (1839-1915). During his time as a professor, he became politically involved with the Acción Republicana (Republican Action) and the Partido Reformista (Reform Party). He continued his investigation of Spanish sculpture under the art and archeology branch of the Centro de Estudios Históricos (Center of Historic Studies). There, Orueta published his important works including La vida y la obra de Pedro Menu y Medruno (1914), a monographic catalogue of the Andalusian sculptor, Berruguete y su obra (1917), La escultura funeraria en Espana (1919), and Gregorio Hernández (1920). In 1924, he published La expresión del dolor en la escultura castellana where he highlights the relationsip between Roman, gothic, and baroque sculpture and the social and cultural movements of the time. Later that year, he returned to school at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando).

    Between 1931-1933, Orueta served as the general director of Bellas Artes of the Spanish Republic. His main efforts were directed towards preserving and elevating Spain’s cultural heritage. Specifically, he facilitated public access to the Crown’s cultural heritage and argued for the regulation of art trade. To facilitate this, he created the Fichero de Arte Antiguo, the most extensive catalogue of Spain’s patrimony which included photographic documentation. Under the direction of Orueta, the Ley de Protección del Tesoro Artístico Nacional (Protective Law of National Artistic Treasures) was enacted in 1933. It defined Spain’s most valuable assets and ultimately allowed for their safekeeping during the Spanish Civil War. He was responsible for hiring two important art historians, Francisco Javier Sánchez Cantón, and Ricardo Gutiérrez Abascal, who wrote under the pseudonym Juan de la Encina.  As the war progressed, Orueta was evacuated to Valencia in 1937 where he continued his research on Christian medieval sculpture. He returned to Madrid to direct the Bellas Artes ministry a second time in 1939. However a change of the party in control for the Second Spanish Republic forced his dismissal. He was succeeded at the ministry by the painter and socialist Josep Renau Berenguer (1907-1982); Orueta died the following February from consequences related to an accident falling down the stairs at the Museo Nacional de Reproducciones.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Berruguete y su obra. Madrid:Calleja, 1917;
    • La visa y la obra de Pedro de Mena y Medrano, Centro de estudios Históricos (Spain), 1914;
    • La escultura funeraria en España. Provincias de Ciudad Real, Cuenca y Guadalajara (1919);
    • Gregorio Hernández (1920);
    • La expresión del dolor en la escultura castellana 1924;


    • “Orueta y Duarte, Ricardo.” in, Gaya Nuño, J.A.  Historia de la crítica del arte en España, Ibérico-Europea. Madrid: Ibérico Europea de Ediciones, 1975, pp. 235-236, 247;
    • M. Cabañas, “Ricardo de Orueta y la Dirección General de Bellas Artes durante la II República y la Guerra Civil”; en VV. AA., Arte en tiempos de guerra, Madrid: CSIC, 2009, pp.481-498;
    • M. Bolaños, “Ricardo de Orueta. Crónica de un olvido”, Museos 2013;
    • M. Cabañas, “La Dirección General de Bellas Artes republicana y la gestión del patrimonio artístico de Ricardo de Orueta,” in VV. AA., Campo artístico y sociedad en España (1836-1936), Granada, Universidad de Granada, 2014, pp. 407-453;
    • Ricardo de Orueta (1868-1939), en el frente del arte, Madrid: AC/E, 2014.

    Contributors: Denise Shkurovich and Lee Sorensen


    Denise Shkurovich and Lee Sorensen. "Orueta y Duarte, Ricardo de." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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