In today's blog, we will talk about the Sinsombrero, a relevant group of female artists who, for gender reasons, would never reach the professional and personal recognition of their contemporaries, the men of the so-called Generation of '27.
Today, March 8, we want to celebrate International Working Women's Day, talking about the Sinsombrero: a group of contemporary female artists to the Generation of '27, who, because of their gender, never received the recognition they deserved.
While there has been undeniable progress in gender equality in recent decades, many of these women's names remain mostly unknown. Despite their friendships with some of the most prestigious men within the artistic panorama of the Second Spanish Republic, such as Lorca or Salvador Dalí stand out, they did not receive the same credit from critics or the press. In life, they hardly obtained the recognition of either the critics or the public, and it was not until years later that their names reemerged from silence.
The Sinsombrero was a group of 9 women artists that actively participated in the social and cultural life of the early 20th Century in Spain. Among the members, we recognize Maruja Mallo, Concha Méndez, Ernestina de Champourcin, Josefina de la Torre, Margarita Gil Röesset, Margarita Manso, María Teresa León, María Zambrano, Ángeles Santos Torroella and Luisa Carnes. Although they came from different backgrounds, regions, and artistic disciplines, they shared the same talent and strength that led them to participate in the different arts, making a name for themselves in a predominantly male-dominated world.
Their challenging attitude and active role in social change led them to suffer the rejection of a large part of conservative society, which opposed the progress they represented. They take the name Sinsombrero, from an incident that occurred in Madrid, under the Puerta del Sol, while one day, taking a walk with Lorca and Dalí, Maruja Mallo and her friend Margarita Manso, both painters, decided to take off the hats as a symbol of "liberation" of the female mind. This attitude was considered a lack of respect by the people passing and led to an incident where they suffered insults and received stones from the public. This event will become one of the most significant historical milestones of the feminist movement in our country.
Let us look at the women considered part of this group led by Maruja Mallo and learn more about their lives and works.
Maruja Mallo, born in Lugo in 1902, achieved her dream of becoming one of the first women in Spain to join the School of Fine Arts in Madrid at the age of 20. She quit her position prematurely because she did not adapt to the rigid system of the Academy. She specialized in realistic painting and, throughout her life, was an outspoken defender of free love and gender equality. She had the opportunity to meet and become friends with some of the most recognized artists, such as Lorca, Dalí, Alberti, and Miguel Hernández. Ironically, her antagonism with Buñuel was well known. After the Spanish Civil War and the establishment of the Franco regime, he sought refuge in Paris, she then went to New York and Chile and finally returned to Madrid, where she died in 1995 at 93. Perhaps her most recognized work is the pictorial anthology "Dwellers of the Void."
Concha Méndez: Born into a wealthy family, although Concha was born in Mexico City, she emigrated to Spain in her early childhood. She would become part of the Madrid intellectual scene thanks to Luis Buñuel, with whom she had a relationship for over seven years. With him, she met relevant personalities of the time, such as Luis Cernuda, Rafael Alberti, and Federico García Lorca. At 28, in 1926, she published her first collection of poems called "Inquietudes," which marked the beginnings of a long career as a poet and would lead her to travel internationally to London, Montevideo, or Buenos Aires. Eventually, she would become a regular contributor to the newspaper La Nación. She became a playwriter, work in which she would achieve her greatest success with the play "The carter angel ."During the civil war, she would also resort to exile, seeking asylum in Paris, Cuba, and Mexico, along with her husband and daughter. She continued writing poetry until she died in 1986.
Ernestina de Champourcin was born in Vitoria in 1905. As a child, she demonstrated extraordinary linguistic skills. She learned to speak, read, and write perfect English, French, and Spanish, which allowed her to grow up reading in the original language, the works of Víctor Hugo, Lamartine, Valle-Inclán, Rubén Darío, and Ramón Jiménez. All of them became sources of inspiration in her poetic work. Passionate about music and social activism, her verses spoke of the social movement, modernity, love, and jazz. In addition to publishing dozens of poems, she wrote in different newspapers. She always refused to let her articles be published in the women's section, but instead, they should be in the poetry section along with those of her male counterparts. She lived through the war and exile in Mexico. Upon her return, she received numerous recognitions and awards, among which it is worth mentioning the Euskadi Prize for Literature in 1989.
Josefina de la Torre was born in Gran Canaria in 1907, and for many, perhaps she is the Canarian poet par excellence. She began to write poetry at the early age of 8, and by 13, she started to publish her poems in magazines in the capital and later began in the narrative of the novel. During the war, she took refuge in Las Palmas, and in 1940, upon her return to Madrid, she debuted as an actress at the María Guerrero National Theater. Her acting work, however, was not limited to the world of theater. She took the step to the big screen, participating in numerous films as an interpreter and as a screenwriter and assistant director. She founded her own theater company with her husband, an actor. She had a prolific career, and by the year 2000, she was recognized as a Member of Honor of the Canarian Academy of Language. In 2002 she was awarded the Cross of the Order of the Canary Islands. Perhaps her only unfulfilled longing and the cause of her greatest sadness would be her infertility, which prevented her from being a mother—a dream she could not fulfill.
Margarita Gil Röesset was born in Madrid in 1907 and was considered a gifted child from the beginning. Exceptionally talented in the arts, she drew, painted, and sculpted from a very early age demonstrating a great interdisciplinary capacity. In 1930 he exhibited her set of sculptures, ' Adam and Eve', at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid and received recognition from critics and peers. However, a series of personal and emotional events led her to take her own life when she was only 24. She had a short life for an excellent career, for which she will always be remembered.
María Zambrano was born in Malaga in 1904 and was among the first women to complete her early schooling in her hometown. She later moved to Madrid, where he studied at the School of Philosophy and Letters of the Complutense University, attending classes with José Ortega y Gasset or Julián Besteiro. She always actively supported the role of emancipated women in her works. After the war, she had to go into exile, and after staying in Paris, New York, or Havana, she finally settled in Mexico, where she became a university professor. It was then that she wrote some of her most important philosophical works such as 'Man and the divine,' 'Dreams and time,' and 'Person and democracy.' Maria Zambrano was one of the few women fully recognized by the Spanish intellectuals after the dictatorship and the first to receive the Prince of Asturias (1981) and Cervantes (1989) Awards.
Ángeles Santos Torroella is perhaps one of the most recognized Catalan painters. Born in 1911 in a small town in the province of Girona, she soon began to show her talents. At 18, she painted 'Un mundo' and 'Tertulia,' still considered masterpieces of Spanish surrealism. In 1931 she exhibited her works in Paris, and in 1936 she participated at the Venice Biennale, thus becoming one of the few female painters to exhibit abroad. Her work revolves around the role of women in the context in which they lived.
Luisa Carnés was born in Madrid in 1905, and she is perhaps the only woman with a humble background, a condition that left a deep mark on both her work and her personal experience. Unlike her colleagues, who enjoyed a comfortable and privileged economic situation and an education, Luisa had to leave school when 11 to go to work in her aunt's hat workshop. It would not be until 1923, at 18, that she could start writing. The tight economic situation during her childhood did not allow her to buy books. She nourished her inquisitiveness and curiosity by reading newspapers or novels she borrowed from popular bookstores. Although self-educated, she soon began to write, leaving an extensive literary corpus of 300 plays, more than 70 stories, ten novels, and hundreds of chronicles, heavily marked with a political and social theme. She was a member of the SCP and a strong supporter of Clara Campoamor in her struggle for women's suffrage. Like most of her counterparts, she had to go into exile during the war, and she stayed in Mexico, where she remained until her death.
We have now come to an end, and we hope that this brief review of the female Generation of the Sinsombrero helped to open your eyes to the presence and work of women over time and, serve as a model and inspiration for today. Remember that even in a male-dominated society, there has always been, is, and will be a space for women's voices and that it is our responsibility to bring them to light today. All female testimonies have their space and deserve to be heard, and yours too.
If you want to learn more about the Sinsombrero, check this RTVE documentary: https://www.rtve.es/play/videos/las-sinsombrero/
Also, check out this blog entry that may interest you:
Women Who made history in the world of technology, https://www.infinitespur.com/post/women-who-made-history-in-the-world-of-technology
Outstanding Women Series – I, https://www.infinitespur.com/post/outstanding-women-series-i
Outstanding Women Series II. https://www.infinitespur.com/post/outstanding-women-series-ii