Mary Mark Ockerbloom (merrigold) wrote,
Mary Mark Ockerbloom

Pleasant Days in Spain

At a 2015 Art+Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon, I was intrigued to find that sculptor Nancy Cox-McCormack had written a book about her travels in Spain.  Given my fascination for women travelers, I was delighted when I found a copy of her book.  In coordination with this year's Art+Feminism event, I am releasing it online.  I am delighted to announce:

"Pleasant Days in Spain."
By Nancy Cox-McCormack, 1885-1967.
New York: J. H. Sears & Company, Inc., 1927.  Copyright not renewed.

Cox-McCormack travelled to Spain in part because she was inspired by political events.  She hoped to get permission to sculpt Spanish dictator  Primo de Rivera.  She must have had considerable nerve!  "The General had been informed concerning my desire to model his portrait bust and was said to have characteristically exclaimed, 'Mon Dieu, isn't modeling Mussolini enough for one woman?' Thereupon promising that he would pose for me if he could find the time."  Not only did Cox-McCormack model de Rivera as well as Mussolini, she was the first person to do so, in December 1925.

On the way, she enjoyed visiting a number of Spanish cities.  Some of the most interesting parts of the book occur when she talks about sculpture and architecture.  She writes, on seeing the stalls of the Toledo Cathedral, "To have produced so many fruits of the chisel and mallet the soul of these sculptors must have been well supplied with the essences of talent and ambition, encouraged by competition, and sustained by a great faith in themselves and the subjects of their compositions."

In contrast, "[The new Cathedral of The Holy Family] is a terrible half finished mass of bad sculptures that creep and crawl, strangling the feeling for architectural proportions and so expressive of the devil and all his evils that it will be a long year before I can remove Don Gandi's fantasy from my special chamber of horrors! I asked the driver what this unfinished towering mass might be and he immediately won me by shrugging his shoulders and replying, "Oh, Madame, that is a mad-house for the owls and bats" – that being a perfect picture of the utility for which it now stands.'"

One wishes Cox-McCormack spent more time describing her meetings with people like General de Rivera and sculptor Maestro Benliure in Madrid.  She was able to view a  Court Procession for the mass of the Epiphany, and see the King and Queen, due to an invitation from  the mother of His Excellency the Ambassador from Great Britain. She reflects, "If they have any qualms about the insecurity of crowns, they have had practice enough (beginning with the bomb thrown at their wedding coach) not to appear concerned. One can have nothing but admiration for any head that carries a crown in these "democratic" days of mighty dictatorships."

Her experience of Spanish culture was generally difficult.  "The minute I stepped off the train in Burgos I began to feel the handicaps of being an unaccompanied woman. …. I don't like the humor of a society that constantly reminds one of one's sex."   She found it hard to endure the constant presence and solicitations of beggars in the streets. The widespread acceptance of violent "entertainments" appalled her. Glimpsing the survivor of a cockfight:  "What pranced from the gutter to acclaim public approval … was a perfectly shameless remnant of the cockfight plucked of all lustrous plumage of natural illustriousness, but solemnly bearing the wounds of Victory. I had never seen a fighting cock after the match. I never wish to see one again either before or after the fray."   She brusquely refused to attend bull-fights.

The contents of this book were originally addressed to the author's friends in Europe and America. Unfortunately, this leads to some unevenness in tone and style, and to various comments which we, not being the intended audience, are unlikely to understand.  One could wish that her account had received serious editing: she has an unfortunate tendency to long rambling sentences and mixed metaphors.  Nonetheless, I hope you will enjoy her account of "Pleasant Days in Spain."

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