Wssel de Guimbarda (Havana, 26.11.1833-Cartagena 9.5.1907) was a painter of the local Spanish oligarchs of the Restoration. In his Sevillian period as well as in the end of his life in Cartagena, Wssel appears as a multifaceted painter, producing a wide range of works that include all genres. He was influenced by the aesthetics of his epoch and was focused on pleasing the ruling class of the two cities. He was a part of the ruling local elite in Cartagena. His life, from his return to the Peninsula until his death in 1907, was marked by his membership in this social group. Besides, a more general analysis of the development of his family, demonstrates how, by a peculiar path of an artist, Wssel de Guimbarda managed to transform the military traditions of his family into a municipal cartagenese oligarchy. He turned their tradition into another one of the ruling elite of their village of Murcia.
Son and grandson of cartegenese military men, Manuel Ussel de Guimbarda and Malibrán (from his stay in Seville he signed his works as Wssel de Guimbarda) was born in Havana where his father was appointed as Commander of the Regiment of Lancers' Cavalry of the King. After his mother’s death, in 1841, father and son returned to Spain to settle in San Fernando (Cadiz). From there they moved to Madrid in 1843, where Wssel de Guimbarda probably studied in the Academy of Fine Arts during the years 1843-44 and 1844-45. In 1845 father and son returned to Cartagena, their native city. There, the father initiated social transformations that Manuel Wssel finished, investing in very lucrative mines of The Union, a germ of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie of the region of Murcia.
During his stay in Cartagena, Wssel began his artistic career at the same time continuing the military trajectory of his family in the field of the Navy. As ought to be, Manuel Wssel de Guimbarda was introduced into the intellectual environment of the abovementioned city, establishing friendly relations with the most prominent figures. Thus, on June 17, 1864 he became a member of the Friends of the Country Economic Society (Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País) of Cartagena. At this time, he also married Adelaida Angosto Lapizburu, daughter of one of the richest oligarchs of Cartagena.
After the death of his father and the devaluation of the mining actions, the couple decided to move to Seville in 1867, where they stayed until 1886. There, Wssel's art was recognized definitively. Through his immense pictorial production, that included all kinds of genres (historical and religious paintings, portraits and copies of great works) and that was influenced a lot by the legacy of Murillo, he was introduced into the ruling class and managed to occupy the alderman's post of the Town hall of Seville from June 11, 1874 and a post in the Statutory Deputation.
Using his personal contacts, he gained clientele in the polite society of Seville, satisfying its demands: portraits, genre paintings and copies of the great works. His annual production, well exceeding a hundred of works, was sold without difficulties on the Andalusian market and flooded foreign collections. This commercial aspect, undoubtedly, demanded official support, that could allow him to increase his clientele. He got it from the National and Regional Expositions. Guimbarda's Wssel exposed his painting Murillo, en Capuchinos, pintando la Virgen conocida con el nombra de la Servilleta on the National Exposition of 1866, his "un estudio de cabeza" and "tres estudios pequeños" on the Provincial Exposition of Seville in 1867, and three portraits, "tres estudios del natural", "San Bartolomé" (copy of Ribera) and a sketch titled La Abundancia coronando el Genio de España on the Provincial Exposition of Cadiz in 1868. Adding to these examples his numerous portraits, including those of Alfonso XII and the queen Maria Mercedes, and the official orders, as the portraits of illustrious doctors of the University of Seville, we get a good view of his artistic work.
His classes in the School of Fine Arts of Cadiz served as another way of official support, until he was appointed a teacher in the Academy of Fine Arts of Seville on 2 November, 1879, after being elected its member on 2 March, 1877.
Finally, his social recognition in Seville resulted in a cataract of prizes and decorations that he started with his appointment to the post of Commander of the Order of Isabel la Católica on March 29, 1877. He attained to be nominated as Comendador de Número* on July 23, 1878. He was nominated Gentleman of the Order of Carlos III on October 1, 1877. He obtained the diploma of the Supreme Council of the Hospitalarios on March 2, 1877. Old decorations for a new rich.
However, in 1886, Wssel de Guimbarda moved to Seville from Cartagena for unknown reasons. The biographers of Wssel de Guimbarda have not stopped to analyze the motives of this departure that seem difficult enough to be determined with the naked eye. The stable situation of his fathers-in-law, the well-going exploitation of the mines of The Union and the desire to return to the "patria chica" could be the decisive motivations of this trip that, nevertheless, did not provoke a significant change in Wssel's painting.
Having settled in one of the best regions of Cartagena, Guimbarda realized a true artistic "dictatorship" in the city until his death in 1907. He realized the most important public decorations (as the decoration of the Cultural club, the headquarters of the Company of Electricity Anhemeyer, the Principal Theatre of Cartagena, several portraits of illustrious prominent figures for the Town hall, the decoration of the Imperial cafeteria, etc.). We also shouldn’t forget his work for the churches of Santa Maria de Gracia and de Caridad in Cartagena, the parochial Church of Totana or the Collegiate of San Patricio in Lorca. Besides, his pedagogic activity provided him with numerous disciples who continued his work and preserved his memory beyond the day of his death, the 9 of May 1907.
Thus, in the person of Wssel Guimbarda we encounter an example of how, by such a peculiar means as painting, a determined man can become interlaced with the social bourgeois elite. Although almost unnoticed, he was accepted in the group as one of the most recognized representatives.