Persona June, 27th 2011 by

El Arte Naif - Dario Meets Bettina Huggino!

The Art of Bettina Huggino – El Arte Naif.

I first made contact with Bettina Huggino,in the mid nineties, when I was dinning with some friends in a simple but delightful Spanish venta (A type of restaurant typical of this part of Andalucia). The venta is situated in a small valley near the small bustling town of Alhaurin al Grande high in the hills between Fuengirola and Marbella.

It is a popular meeting place for the local farmers, builders and artisans and the other nationals living in and around the area. On Sundays the place is heaving with the noisy crowds of excited Spanish families, who like to gather in the venta and relax with their friends and families, enjoying themselves, devouring delicious helpings of paella and drinking good bottles of Rioja, with gusto.

The furniture in the venta is of a simple type and the décor is quite ordinary except for one constituent. The walls are covered with many beautiful and colourful paintings depicting rural scenes of Spain that sadly, are fast disappearing from the traditional rural environment of Andalucia.

The Noise level grows with impatient intensity in parallel harmony with the pleasure of the company and experience shared. Numerous little children run in and around the tables pulling the ears of yelping dogs and chasing nervous cats, totally oblivious of all and sundry, but carefully scrutinized by devoted indulgent grandparents. I watched the scene unfolding in front of my eyes with a detached enchantment and I am reminded of Fellini’s evocative film “Amacord.”

I was idly chatting to a man sitting next to me, who I later realised, was Bettina’s hardworking husband Felippe (Phillip). We were then formally introduced and to my surprise, I was enlightened that the creator of the unusual paintings hanging on the venta walls, were the works of Bettina Huggino the charming lady sitting in front of me. She is a blonde. Her long flowing hair tucked up high in the classical style, with Grey blue eyes to match. A gentlewoman with a kind, but steely character She has the comfortable look is of a lady who lives securely within her own world, and who is the mistress of that mysterious place, the inner soul.

She reminded me of one of those courageous English ladies, that at the height of the British Empire, confidently travelled and lived in the most obscure and remote places of the globe, oblivious of hardships, dangers or inconveniences to themselves. Seemingly protected by a spiritual charm.

She lives with her husband Felippe in a small finca, within walking distance of the venta. The views from her home are stunning. She looks upon the mountain where Ibex still roam, and her garden is filled with an intoxicating variety of fruit trees and flowers. Her life is simple, they have no telephone, computers, or running water (as it comes from a well) and electricity is from a generator. These chores keep her husband busy with maintenance.

I found an immediate rapport with them both, which I still feel today as they are a very down to earth and natural couple, devoid of all forms of pretentiousness, which has become one of the hall marks of artists in the twentieth century.

She took me to her charming home and showed me many of her paintings, which she explains are known as El Arte Naif, (naive art). Her style is simple but direct. She uses brilliant colours as bright as the Spanish sun.
With her fertile imagination Bettina creates scenes from everyday life in the rural life in Andalucia, which she has observed, during her many years living in this region; capturing on canvass particular customs and details which sadly will not always be with us, as the Spanish, race headlong into the modern commercial jungle. She is totally absorbed in her work and when creating, she paints from morning till dusk not aware of how hot or how cold it has become.
Bettina has exhibited her paintings in Lucena, Granada, Seville and Marbella just to mention a few cities where she has delighted art lovers.
She told me the other evening that she sold mostly to Spaniards from all over Spain who delight in her depiction of their rapidly vanishing way of life. But strangely, not to English people. I was not sure whether Bettina was a little disappointed by this discovery especially as she is a real Devonian.
I gently reminded her of another pair of great English artists that were totally ignored and misunderstood by their own countrymen Delius and Elgar. Their talents were only discovered and understood by the French and Germans.
She just politely smiled at me. Her natural modesty and English reserve, keeping her down to the Spanish earth from where her inspiration comes from.

Bettina Huggino has much to offer the art-loving public and I’m sure that it won’t be long before the wider world, sees her work and hears the name of Bettina Huggino in the same breath as her fellow countryman Lowery.

I wish her well in all that she does. Her paintings will become a valuable source of memory and recorded history for a future generation. A simple but beautifully expressed reminder of the humanity of Spanish life that we all love. This simplicity and integrity in her work is the essence of Bettina Huggino.

Dario Poli.

Copyright Dario Poli.  Article first published in Marbella International Magazine October 2001

Sadly since this article was written, Bettina Huggino has passed away. However her memory lingers on in the minds of those who knew her and her genuine work.  

Dario Poli

Composer, artist, and a published author and illustrator. He is initiator of the campaign to present a better image Internationally, of Marbella and the Costa del Sol. Composer of the music "Marbella Marbella" used as the anthem of the campaign and also many other recorded compositions including Nostradamus, and Corazon, for The Children for Peace Onlus charity in Rome as well as the co-author of the powerful musical drama Lady X and The Power of Destiny. He is also the editor and a founder member of this website.

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