Nicolás Muller. North Wind revises and retrieves the work performed in the North of Spain by one of the greatest documentary photographers of the past century. An account that reveals his vision, deeply humanist, about the working people and beauty of the landscapes of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Pais Vasco (Basque Country) and Navarra, and which is completed by a section named “Obras Mestras” (“Masterpieces”) in which some of his most famous works are collected.
Nicolás Muller (Oròsháza – Hungria, 1913 – Llanes – Asturias, 2000), along with his camera, was a privileged witness of one of the most turbulent times of the recent European history. The evolution of his personal and professional life took him from his birth country to France, Portugal, Morocco, and Spain, fleeing World War II and in search of peace and freedom.
In the Gaiás Centre Museum we can admire a total of 131 pictures which belong to the Fine Arts Museum of Asturias, the Ana Muller Fund and the Regional Archive of the Community of Madrid.
The 82 photographs that make up the majority of the exhibition correspond to the work of Muller in the 1960s, when he was commissioned to take photographs for a series of illustrated books reflecting the richness of the landscape and the culture of the different regions of Spain. In addition to the shots of well-known monuments and buildings, the commission required capturing scenes of everyday life in towns and cities, which are the ones that the curator of the exhibition, José Ferrero Villares, and Ana Muller, the photographer's daughter, selected for this exhibition.
The exhibition is mostly composed of photographs that had not been printed at the time, or they were used in small publications, almost always with cropped frames that disrupted their entity and beauty. Nicolás Muller. North Wind, retrieves them in their original format, reclaiming the quality of these works within Muller’s entire photographic work
Galicia in Muller’s eyes
The design of the exhibition space establishes a geographic tour that begins in Galicia and continues with the images taken in Cantabria, Asturias, Navarra and the Basque Country. At the end of the exhibition, included under the title “Masterpieces”, there is a selection of 49 of the photographer’s most famous shots, taken in Hungary, France, Portugal, Morocco and Spain.
The works related to the fishing in the ports of Vigo, O Grove and A Guarda, as well as the daily scenes of the streets of Santiago de Compostela, Betanzos, Combarro, or Ourense are protagonists of Nicolas Muller’s photographs taken in Galicia which can be seen in the Gaiás Centre Museum.
Children and women have a special role in Muller’s photography, something that can be verified also in the images he took in Galicia. These show women working in the unloading of the fish and in the sales at the fish markets, fish net makers repairing the fishing tools, laundresses and also young women selling at outdoor markets in the Galician towns.
A life in search of freedom
The Nicolás Muller. North Wind exhibition includes a short documental and audiovisual piece that collects the testimonials of Muller himself, his daughter Ana and the exhibition’s commissary, José Ferrero. The video allows visitors to discover the milestones that marked the Hungarian photographer’s life and work, who left his country in 1938, touring around Europe until he stopped in Tanger, and afterwards, finally, in Spain.
Born in Oròsháza (Hungary) in 1913, within a jewish, non-religious, bourgeoise family, Nicolás Muller studied Law and Political Sciences following the family tradition, although his real vocation since he was a child was photography. His first photographic collaborations, carried out during his college life, show the extreme hardship in which the Hungarian working class, especially in the countryside, developed.
The xenophobic attacks suffered and witnessed since he was young and the dangers he sensed in Hungary and Austria before the beginning of World War II, led him to abandon his birth country and travel to France, where he develops and enriches his training in documental photography. After a short stay in Portugal, in 1939 he settles in Tanger where he sets up his own photography studio.
In 1948 he arrives in Spain together with Asturian Fernando Vela, with whom he collaborates in several Spanish publications such as the journal España in Tanger or the Institute of Political Studies. He establishes his study in Madrid and develops an intense cultural activity participating in talks with intellectuals and artists of the period and photographing most of them. Thus, he works in different commissions that would take around Spain. In 1961 he obtains the Spanish nationality.
Fernando Vela invites him to visit Asturias and Nicolás Muller falls in love with the region, especially with the landscape of the Asturian west. In Andrín (Llanes) he builds a house that will eventually become his preferred place of rest and refuge during his retirement and until his death in January of the year 2000.