Iberian Peninsula, 1900 A.D.–present

  • Woman in Green
  • Guitar
  • Violin and Playing Cards
  • The Potato
  • The Accommodations of Desire
  • Reading at a Table
  • Madonna
  • Pantsuit
  • Dona Catalana
  • Alada table


1900 A.D.

1925 A.D.

Kingdom of Portugal, 1139–1910
First Republic, 1910–26
Bourbon (Borbón) rule, 1700–1931 with interruptions

1925 A.D.

1950 A.D.

First Republic, 1910–26
Second Republic, 1926–74
Bourbon (Borbón) rule, 1700–1931 with interruptions
Republic of Spain, 1931–36
Spanish Civil War, 1936–39
Dictatorship, 1939–75

1950 A.D.

1975 A.D.

Second Republic, 1926–74
Third Republic, 1974–present
Dictatorship, 1939–75
Constitutional monarchy, 1975–present

1975 A.D.

2000 A.D.

Third Republic, 1974–present
Dictatorship, 1939–75
Constitutional monarchy, 1975–present


The countries of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal, make important contributions to twentieth-century culture, despite the disruptions and isolation caused by repressive political regimes throughout much of the period. Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), perhaps the most influential artist of the twentieth century, begins his earliest period of experimentation in Barcelona and Madrid, before settling in Paris in 1904. The Spanish Civil War and the eventual empowerment of General Francisco Franco (1892–1975) in 1939, in particular, begin a period of economic and political isolation in Spain which is not conducive to art production. A number of artists are exiled as a result of the Civil War, including the Catalan painter Joan Miró (1893–1983), who is associated with the Surrealists in Paris but returns to Spain with the outbreak of World War II. Over the course of its long duration, the Franco regime endorses an academic style of art that it believes to be consistent with its political ideology. Nonetheless, artists and groups with connections to avant-garde movements elsewhere in Europe do emerge, especially in the postwar years.

During the early years of the century, Spain is an important center for Art Nouveau in architecture and design. Through the 1930s, centers of Surrealist art production, in both literature and visual arts, thrive in the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal, a particular sort of modernist architecture is developed that possesses aesthetic ties with avant-garde design elsewhere on the continent yet simultaneously responds to the distinctive local vernacular. Between 1964 and 1981, the Spanish Equipo Crónica, a group of artists led by Rafael Solbes (1940–1981) and Manolo Valdés (born 1942), makes art inspired by American and European Pop Art, but directed against the Franco regime. The group is associated with Estampa Popular, a collective of printmakers with a similarly critical political position.

In the years following the end of the Spanish dictatorship and Portuguese fascism in the 1970s, both countries are more fully integrated into the world economy. Spain and Portugal each begins to play a more important role in contemporary art, as new exhibition venues are established, and as visual artists, writers, and filmmakers from the Iberian Peninsula become more regular participants in international events.

Key Events

  • 1900

    The first solo exhibition of Málaga-born artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is held at Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona. Although Picasso is closely associated with Parisian avant-garde movements, he returns periodically to Spain and maintains an interest in Spanish concerns.

  • 1902–4

    Juan Gris (1887–1927) studies mechanical drawing at the Escuela de Artes y Manufacturas in Madrid. In 1906, he moves to France and subsequently contributes to the development of Cubism in Paris.

  • 1905–10

    The Casa Milà, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), is constructed in Barcelona. Also known as La Pedrera (“The Quarry”), the building features undulating stone facades with biomorphic overtones. The work of Gaudí represents Art Nouveau architecture in Spain, known as Modernisme in Catalonia, where he is active.

  • 1910

    A political revolution in Portugal topples the monarchy and initiates the First Republic. In 1926, a military coup begins a half-century of political domination by Fascist regimes and repressive governments.

  • 1914–18

    Spain remains politically neutral during World War I. In 1916, Germany declares war on Portugal after German ships are seized in Lisbon. A small Portuguese force arrives at the front in France in 1917 and the Portuguese sustain some 7,000 casualties during World War I.

  • 1927

    The 300th anniversary of the death of poet Luis de Góngora (1561–1627) inspires the writers associated with the Generación del 27 (Generation of ’27) to revive interest in Góngora’s work. The members, who include Luis Cernuda (1902–1963) and Federico García Lorca (1898–1936), are influenced by the Surrealist movement.

  • 1928

    Film writer and director Luis Buñuel (1900–1983) makes Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), co-directed and co-written with Salvador Dalí (1904–1989). His 1930 film L’Âge d’Or (The Golden Age) is also co-written with Dalí.

  • 1929

    The Exposición Ibero-Americana is held in Seville. The Plaza de España is constructed for the exhibition and designed by architect Hannibal Gonzales.

  • 1929

    German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) designs the Barcelona Pavilion for the Exposición Internacional in that city. The building, which is planned to fulfill a largely ceremonial function, becomes a modernist icon.

  • 1930–33

    French designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879–1933) creates Art Deco interiors for Carlos Alberto Cabral, count of Vizela, in the Casa Serralves near the center of Porto in Portugal. The property later incorporates the Museu Serralves, a contemporary art museum designed by Alvaro Siza (born 1933) and completed in 1999.

  • 1931

    Spain’s Second Republic begins, following the abdication of King Alfonso XIII (1886–1941), under the leadership of the first president Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (1877–1949). He is succeeded in 1936 by Manuel Azaña (1880–1940). Following an attempted coup by General Francisco Franco (1892–1975) in 1936, which begins the Spanish Civil War, Azaña remains in power until the fall of the Republic to Franco in 1939.

  • 1931

    Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) paints The Persistence of Memory (Museum of Modern Art, New York), which depicts limp watches in a strange landscape. The painting, one of Dalí’s best known, reflects his interest in psychologically charged imagery and his affiliation with the Surrealist movement.

  • 1933

    Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) writes Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), the first in a trilogy of tragic dramas dealing with the psychological torment suffered by Spanish women, particularly in marriage. The other plays are Yerma (1934) and La casa de Bernarda Alba (1936, The House of Bernarda Alba).

  • 1933

    The influential Flamenco singer Antonio Mairena (1909–1983) receives national recognition when he records a song for the film María de la O. From 1955, Mairena will be a key figure in the Flamenco Renaissance.

  • 1935

    Spanish poet Luis Rosales (1910–1992) publishes Abril (April) and poet Dionisio Ridruejo (1912–1975) writes Plural. These two works embody the interests in Renaissance poetry and in the development of a direct personal expression that characterize the writings of the Generación del 36 (Generation of ’36).

  • 1936–39

    The Spanish Civil War takes place. The Republicans are defeated by right-wing nationalists fighting under General Francisco Franco (1892–1975).

  • 1937

    Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) produces a major canvas entitled Guernica, which depicts in horrific visual terms the German bombing of a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War. The painting is exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion (designed by architect José Luis Sert [1902–1983]) at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris.

  • 1938

    George Orwell (1903–1950) publishes Homage to Catalonia, a first-person account of the Spanish Civil War and his admiration for the revolutionary politics of Barcelona.

  • 1941

    General Francisco Franco (1892–1975) expresses solidarity with the German cause in World War II. Franco supports a volunteer military force, the Blue Division (later the Blue Legion), but Spain remains officially neutral during the war.

  • 1947

    Mário Cesariny (born 1923) is among the founders of the Grupo Surrealista de Lisboa (Lisbon Surrealist Group). Like others of his contemporaries in the Portuguese art world, including painter António Pedro (1909–1966), Cesariny is keenly interested in Parisian avant-garde art movements.

  • 1948–56

    Inspired by Dada and Surrealism, the Barcelona-based artistic and literary group Dau al Set (“Die at Seven”) promotes contemporary Catalan art. Among the painter members are Joan Ponç (1927–1984) and Antoni Tàpies (born 1923).

  • 1955

    Spain joins the United Nations, although the country will not become part of many important international alliances until after the death of Franco (1892–1975). Spain joins NATO in 1982 and the European Union in 1986.

  • 1957

    The Spanish artists’ group Equipo 57 is founded. Among its members are Agustín Ibarrola (born 1930) and the Basque sculptor Nestor Basterrechea (born 1924).

  • 1959

    The terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque Fatherland and Liberty) is formed to bring about a separate socialist Basque state. By the end of the century, ETA will be responsible for the deaths of nearly 800 people as a consequence of its terrorist attacks, mostly carried out in the Basque Country, Madrid, and Barcelona.

  • 1963

    El Museu Picasso (The Picasso Museum) opens in a fifteenth-century palace in Barcelona, the Palau Aguilar. The museum will expand in 1970 and 1999 with the annexation of adjoining buildings.

  • 1969

    The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian opens in Lisbon. It is considered the greatest collection of foreign art in Portugal. In 1983, the Foundation opens the Centro de Arte Moderna to house twentieth-century art.

  • 1972

    Shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, born in the Canary Islands in 1943, produces his first collection. In the 1980s and ’90s, Blahnik’s shoes will be made famous by the many celebrities who wear them and their appearance in popular television programs in Great Britain and the United States.

  • 1973

    ETA is responsible for the assassination of Spanish prime minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco (1903–1973) in Madrid. The attack is carried out in response to the execution by the Spanish government of Basque separatists.

  • 1974

    The Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos) brings about an end to the fascist regime in Portugal and establishes a liberal democracy. The next year, 1975, independence is granted to its African colonies. Following a period of reform, Portugal joins the European Union in 1986.

  • 1974

    The Fundación Joan Miró in Barcelona, designed by Spanish architect José Luis Sert (1902–1983), is completed. In 2002, the building receives the American Institute of Architects’ 25-Year Award for buildings of high-quality design that have stood for between 25 and 35 years. The building blends modernist and Mediterranean vernacular elements.

  • 1975

    The death of General Francisco Franco leads to the end of his dictatorial regime. Juan Carlos de Borbón (born 1938) is proclaimed king of Spain, which becomes a constitutional monarchy with a new constitution in 1978.

  • 1977

    Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza (born 1933) designs the Malagueira Quarter Housing Project at Evora. In recognition of this and other works, Siza is awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992.

  • 1977

    Javier Mariscal (born 1950) has his first one-man show in Barcelona. Included are drawings, sculptures, videos, and works in other media. The following year he exhibits designs for postmodern furniture.

  • 1978

    The Spanish Constitution grants some autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia. These regions possess distinctive cultural and linguistic identities.

  • 1980–86

    The Museo Nacional de Arte Romano (National Museum of Roman Art) in Mérida, Spain, designed by Rafael Moneo (born 1937), is constructed. Moneo wins the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1996.

  • 1981

    The first annual ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair is held in Madrid. It will become a premier venue for the exhibition of contemporary art in Spain.

  • 1983–88

    The Nevogilde House is built in Oporto, Portugal, to the design of Eduardo Souto Moura (born 1952). The house embodies the architect’s dual interest in international modernism and the local vernacular.

  • 1986

    Portugal’s integration into the world economy and politics is signaled by its membership in the European Economic Community (now the European Union). In 1998, Portugal enters the European Monetary Union, and introduces the Euro in 1999 to financial institutions.

  • 1987

    La Ley del deseo (The Law of Desire), a film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar (born 1949), debuts and stars Antonio Banderas (born 1960). Almodóvar’s later films, includingMujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988), will make him the best-known Spanish director worldwide.

  • 1990

    Madrid writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte (born 1951) publishes his third novel, La Tabla de Flandes (The Flanders Panel), which establishes his international reputation. In 1993, he publishes El Club Dumas, his most acclaimed novel.

  • 1990–92

    Barcelona artist Eulalia Valldosera (born 1963) produces photographs entitled Burnsfocusing on traces of her own body. Her later works will extend to installation, performance, and video art, and will be characterized by an intense interest in shadow and light.

  • 1990–97

    Santiago Calatrava (born 1951) designs the Campo Volantin Footbridge, constructed in Bilbao, Spain. The soaring design and spectacular engineering typify the designer’s ability to make utilitarian structures dynamic components of the urban landscape.

  • 1991–97

    American architect Frank Gehry designs the Guggenheim Museum, constructed in Bilbao, Spain. The building represents Gehry’s use of computer software to produce designs for undulating titanium-clad forms, at the same time that the project plays an important role in the redevelopment of Bilbao.

  • 1992

    The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid is opened and houses modern and contemporary Spanish art. Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) Guernica (1937) is among the works on exhibit.

  • 1992

    The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza opens in Madrid. The collection includes old master works, as well as examples of nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernism.

  • 1992

    The Summer Olympic Games are held in Barcelona. The event occasions the rebuilding of the city’s waterfront and repair of its infrastructure, neglected during the years of the Franco regime.

  • 1992

    The Exposición Universal is held in Seville. Santiago Calatrava (born 1951) designs a bridge across the Guadalquivir River in connection with the fair.

  • 1992

    The film Vacas (Cows) by Basque director Julio Medem (born 1958) debuts. The work represents the director’s ongoing concern with Basque cultural and political identity.

  • 1993

    Basque sculptor and installation artist Cristina Iglesias (born 1956) represents Spain, along with Antoni Tàpies (born 1923), at the Venice Biennale. Her first solo museum exhibition in the United States will take place at the Guggenheim in New York in 1997.

  • 1994

    Madrid-born artist Santiago Sierra (born 1966) has his first solo exhibitions at the Galería Angel Romero and the Espacio “P” in Madrid. Sierra specializes in orchestrating performances by nonartists that call into question economic, social, and class relations.

  • 1996

    Spanish artist Juan Muñoz (1953–2001) exhibits a complex figural installation at the Dia Center in New York entitled A Place Called Abroad. In 2000, he wins Spain’s prestigious prize, the Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes.

  • 1998

    Barcelona designer Martí Guixé (born 1964) begins an ongoing collaboration with the Spanish shoe retailer Camper that results in store interiors and product design. His humorous conceptual work is critical of consumer culture.

  • 1998

    The Universal Exposition (Expo 98) is held in Lisbon. The pavilion dedicated to oceanographic research is designed by architect João Luís Carrilho da Graça (born 1952), and the Portuguese pavilion by Alvaro Siza (born 1933).

  • 1999

    Macao, the oldest European colony in China, is transferred by Portugal to the People’s Republic of China. The island, adjoining Guangdong Province, becomes a Special Administrative Region within the PRC.

  • 1999

    Spain is among the first group of countries to adopt a common European single currency (the Euro).

  • 2000

    Fernando Távora (born 1923) designs the amphitheater for the faculty of law at the Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal. Távora is known for his modernist designs that are nonetheless responsive to their urban and historical contexts.


“Iberian Peninsula, 1900 A.D.–present.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=11&region=eusi (October 2004)