A. C. Michael’s An Artist in Spain

In 1914, Hodder & Stoughton published Michael’s An Artist in Spain, in the same series as their earlier titles by Walter Tyndale, “Egypt” (1912) and “Italy” (1913). This book contains 26 colour plates of scenes from an extensive tour conducted by Michael and two unknown companions between 1912 and 1913.

Their tour starts by crossing the English Channel and travelling from there to Paris, where they meet up with a “jovial” and “portly” Gascon artist referred to only as H――. From Paris they take the train down to the French border town of Hendaye, where they spend a few days before crossing into Spain. The tour of Spain is mostly conducted by train, taking them gradually south until they reach Granada and from there up the east coast to Barcelona and home.

The 1912‒3 tour of Spain, from Hendaye in the north, south to the Sierra Nevada and then up the east coast to Barcelona.

The illustrations are lovely. Although a reviewer in The Scotsman noted that some of the landscape illustrations were a little flat, which they attributed to problems of reproduction, the portraits were more successful, being all “realised in the happiest manner.” The Illustrated London News, who were publishing Michael’s black and white illustrations on a weekly basis, confined their commentary on the book to informing their readers that Spain was the country which sent an Armada against England, and who “now have a English Queen”!

From a biographical point of view the book is somewhat disappointing, as Michael’s extensive use of “we” provides no clue as to the identity of his third travelling companion, although she is probably Dora Mary Owen, who he had been seeing since 1910 and who he took to Spain again in 1915. “H――” is likely to have been an acquaintance from Michael’s time in Montparnasse, Paris, over a decade earlier, but I have not been able to pin him down. The only other person mentioned by name is Don L――, a friend who meets them in Alazán and travels with them to Madrid.

It is clear that Michael was a great fan of Spain, and that this was certainly not his first tour. According to the opening chapter, this journey was prompted by looking at an old wineskin hanging from the wall, and recalling heady days in the Castilian sun, being refreshed by the Manchegan wine it carried, again in the company of H――.