Bullfighting is an ancient and controversial sport. Bullfighting as most of us know it - wherein three matadors go up against six bulls - probably originated in Spain but is popular in several other countries, and is practiced in various incarnations in other parts of the world. Since the 18th Century, the bulls used in Spanish bullfighting as bred so as to be particular aggressive. Bullfighting is considered a kind of dance, as it is a spectacle that requires deft footwork and costume. In his 1932 book Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway declared bullfighting “the only art in which the artist is in danger of death.” Controversial for obvious reasons, bullfighting has faced large-scale criticism in recent years, even in Spain. Catalonia, for example, banned bullfighting in the region in 2012. The Bullfights folder in the SVA Pictures Collection is notably thick and packed with particularly gorgeous images of bullfights. There is something about a spectacle of violence that lends itself particularly well to art, which is probably why artists of all kinds have been fascinated with it for aeons. Many of the bullfighting images in the folder are, however, oddly serene. Despite their content, they aren’t violent photographs. The matadors are frozen in arabesques. The bulls, suspended in motion, have a kind of iconographic appeal. In images, bullfighting evokes dance far more than, for example, hunting. Looking through the folder, one is invited to consider the relationship between violence and beauty, as well as the ethics of spectacle and representation.
Jan 27 2018