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Orreaga by N. Basterrechea
The sculpture Orreaga by Nestor Basterrechea is displayed in the
lobby of Getchell Library at the University of Nevada, Reno. It is on
loan to the University from José Ramón Cengotitabengoa and Gema
Egaña de Cengotitabengoa.
Informational text done in calligraphy is mounted near the sculpture to
explain its meaning:
The sculpture Orreaga by Nestor Basterrechea depicts one of the
epic events in Basque and European history—the attack by Basques on
the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army as it passed through the
Pyrenees. Its historical significance was transcended by its literary
importance since it gave rise to the ballad Song of
commemorating the death of the commander of Charlemagne’s troops.
“Orreaga” is the Basque word for Roncevaux (French) or Roncesvalles
(Spanish), site of the battle. The U-shaped base of the sculpture
depicts the canyon in which Charlemagne’s forces were ambushed and
trapped. The lower discoid represents the doomed army itself, while the
upthrust forms superimposed upon it signify the chaotic cries of the
dying men. The suspended discoid is both the avenging Basques and the
bird of death descending upon its victims.
Another calligraphic text nearby gives viewers some background
information about the artist:
Basque sculptor Nestor Basterrechea is a leading
figure in the contemporary art world. His works have appeared in over
twenty individual exhibits and as part of over 150 collective ones.
Born in Bermeo, Bizkaia in 1924, he was exiled by the Spanish Civil
War, living first in France (1936-1942) and then in Argentina
He began his artistic career as a painter in the
South American nation, winning, in 1949, Argentina’s prestigious
“Premio Unico a Extranjeros” at the National Salon in Buenos Aires.
In 1952 he returned to the Basque Country and was selected to paint the
massive mural that adorns the crypt of the basilica of the Monastery of
By 1960 Basterrechea expanded his artistic
horizons, particularly in sculpture. He co-founded the experimental art
groups “Equipo 57” and “Gaur.” He became a noted
cinematographer, co-authoring Pelotari, Alquézar, and Ama-Lur.
He is also a still photographer and writer. His poem, “Karraxix,”
was put to music and performed in San Sebastián.
Nestor Basterrechea’s work has been described as
an exploration of Basque character, universality, and beauty. His
universality resides in the use of modern forms, making his work an
integral part of the vanguard movement in Spain. The aesthetic beauty
of his works has surprised critics, particularly at a time when beauty
in art is often accorded little importance or even shunned. His
expression of Basque character is most evident in the “Cosmogenic
Series,” which transcend the silence of prehistorical time through
Basque mythology expressed in the tangible images of his sculptures.
The series is featured in the books about him entitled Nestor
Basterrechea and Basterrechea Anthology. He has received
considerable recognition in his own land and his sculptured design
graces the assembly hall of the Basque Parliament in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Most recently he was selected as the designer of
the Monument to the Basque Sheepherder that has been constructed at
Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.