Laureà Barrau Buñol (1863-1957) came from Catalonia, hence the admiration for the landscape he captured. He was educated in Barcelona and Paris, among other places. The initial period of the artist’s work was dominated by historical painting interspersed with occasional portrait creation. Representation of figures later became one of the main topics taken up by the painter. Influenced by the artists of the Escola pictòrica d’Olot, a Spanish school of landscape painting, he abandoned historical topics in favour of depicting nature. Barrau especially liked to portray the Catalan landscape, which was the background for the foreground portraits and genre scenes. He practiced this type of painting until the end of his life.
Description of the painting:
“Dama with a Fan on the Beach (Bath Servant)” is a portrait of a woman against the Catalan coast. The figure is shown to the knees, centrally located, taking up almost the entire picture field. She is dressed in a white blouse and a voluminous skirt, the draping of which suggests the movement of the wind. On the right arm she has a suitcase. In the left one she holds a fan, with which she covers her face from the sun. Looking out from under it flirtatiously, the woman establishes eye contact with the viewer.
The material wrapped around her arm and the movement towards the viewer suggest that she is just leaving the beach, following her mistress. Her costume, the scene in which she is depicted and the title of the work emphasize that she belongs to the service. On the left side there is a modestly dressed woman with her head covered with a scarf. The way she holds the fabric suggests she is about to spread the material on the sand. The background of the “Servant” is, on the right, a fragment of the coast bathed in light, and on the left is a shaded figure of another woman. Such a composed background creates a presentation of two opposing phenomena, the relationship of which is fully revealed in the foreground figure. The representation of the woman became a space to show the relationship between light and shadow. The folds of the skirt show how the falling light is distributed. The upper half of the body, covered with a fan, is bathed in delicate sun rays passing through the ajour fan, creating a distinct pattern on the white material of the blouse. The composition created by Barrau allowed him to fully illustrate the observed light phenomena.