Luis Riccardo Falero (1851-1896)

Luis Falero, a Spanish-born painter who lived most of his life in London, is one of a number of painters concentrating on the nude, shown in a highly-finished manner, and in a mythological or fairy tale setting. At his best, Falero's paintings show an almost super-realist talent for depicting the female form, but many of his girls are rather coy, with an emphasis on sexiness and not much effort at a subject - pin-ups rather than high art. Falero wavers on both sides of the line between a beautiful nude and artistic girl, and an oversweet coquettish Salon painting.

He was born in Granada, but lived in London and studied in Paris, having rejected his parents' choice of a nautical career for him. In Paris he worked as a portraitist and in pencil, and learnt the art of watercolour. He settled in London in the 1880s, and died there in 1896 aged just 45.

Among the various settings for his figures, the sky was one of Falero's most popular - Diana (1883), Double Star, The Zodiac, Iris and Phebus and several pictures of witches (characteristically young and nubile rather than old and wizened ones). Other favorite topics were fairy paintings and classically-titled pieces with subjects such as nymphs. He also tried Orientalist subjects such as An Eastern Beauty, and even religious pictures, though the appropriateness of undraped femininity for Biblical subjects is not large - he managed at least a somewhat over the top Temptation of Saint Anthony.

Falero's work seems to have become widespread through reproductions quite early on in his career, and most of his pictures have ended up in America, apparently particularly in New York. However, one of his very best pictures, The Butterfly - a butterfly-winged nude girl approaching a flower in the most impeccable good taste - is on display in Bournemouth. I am unaware of any others of his works on show in British galleries.

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