1936. José María Sert and the League of Nations. Perspective and Diplomacy

Sert was tasked with decorating the Council Room of the Palace of Nations in Geneva. He created a series of allegories of War and Peace, the Progress of Humanity, Justice and International Law. Ironically, the inauguration took place in October 1936, during the Spanish Civil War.
This work is exhibited and put into context (drafts, documents and photographs of the installation in Geneva) by bringing it together with the seventeen drapes and eleven mural canvases of the Gipuzkoan people that Sert created for the San Telmo Museum.

  • 13rd January – 5th march, 2017
  • From Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm
  • Entry fee: € 6 (free on Tuesdays)
  • Chapel of Echeverri
  • Curator: Patricia Molins
  • #PeaceTreaty


Trata la concepción militar del territorio, invención de la geografía, mapas y representaciones, recorridos y mapas políticos; fortificaciones y construcciones militares; arquitecturas, máquinas militares y máquinas de guerra.



Trata las alegorías de la historia; la historia como concatenación de guerra y paz; teología y teleología.



Trata sobre banderas, estandartes y banderas blancas; uniformes y militares en la vida civil; escudos y retratos de militares como símbolos.



Trata sobre el soldado poeta, soldado converso, caída de caballo; vida militar en la vida civil; retaguardia, propaganda militar en torno a la paz.



Trata de cementerios, tumbas, soldado desconocido, monumentos conmemorativos; entierros, ceremonias litúrgicas militares, música militar; victimas civiles.

  • 1936. José María Sert and the League of Nations. Perspective and diplomacy is a case study of Peace Treaty: a project by San  Sebastian  2016, European Capital of Culture.
  • The central exhibition for the San Sebastián 2016 Peace treaty project was 1516-2016. Peace Treaties and was hold durind the summer 2017 at San Telmo Museum and Koldo Mitxelena cultural centre.
  • The first part of the Peace Treaty project took place in 2013 and its central exhibition was entitled 1813. Siege, fire and reconstruction of San Sebastián 

"In 1936, the painter José María Sert presented the murals he had painted for the headquarters of the League of Nations in Geneva. He had just completed the murals for the Rockefeller Center in New York, replacing those that had been painted by the Mexican Diego Rivera, which introduced a fundamental change in his work, giving prominence to titanic figures.

Through the mediation of Salvador de Madariaga, Sert was given the responsibility of decorating the Council Chamber of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, and created a series of allegories of war and peace, of the progress of humanity, justice and international law. For example, international law is represented by the lesson given by Francisco de Vitoria at the University of Salamanca. Ironically, the inauguration took place in October 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. The idea is to both show the work and put it into context, with the sketches, documents and photographs of the original installation in Geneva, setting these against the 17 mural drapes and 11 canvasses depicting the Gipuzkoan people that Sert painted for the San Telmo Museum.

This is how the curator Patricia Molins describes the exhibition: “These images, but also his actions during the war as an ambassador for the interests of the Nationalist side, in the company of Cambó and Estelrich, became a symbol of Franco’s victory, despite the fact that they had emerged from a change of style linked to the representation, both in the Rockefeller Center and Geneva, of the progress of humanity. For this reason they appear, paired together with machine guns captured from the enemy, in the catalogue of the Exposición de material de guerra tomado al enemigo (Exhibition of war material taken from the enemy) held in San Sebastian in 1938. Rather than the Babel of the masses, Sert chose the Rome of order and of the crucifix. But there is something else in his painting, there is also the problem of style, in which he measures himself against other painters like Dali and Rivera, with whom he spent time in the second half of the nineteenthirties and who also attempted to represent a political order linked to a pictorial style.”

In this sense the role of Sert – who, for example, collaborated on the “return” of the Lady of Elche to Spain – is paradoxical in terms of the institutional policies relating to art in Spain. His nephew Josep Lluís Sert was the architect of the Pavilion of the Republic that housed Picasso’s Guernica in 1937, while José María himself placed his Apotheosis of Saint Teresa at the nearby Vatican Pavilion, interceding with heaven for Franco to be victorious in the Spanish civil war. The world turned upside down. Perspective and diplomacy. "

Pedro G. Romero, Curator of Peace Treaty

José María Sert

José María Sert (1876-1945) is a unique artist; an epigone of a bygone era, due to his interest in decorative painting, whilst also ahead of his time, as a muralist of mass society. Exuberant and worldly, his own relationships (he came from a large textile industry family) and those of the women in his life, especially Misia Sert, helped him forge a path as a decorator to the blood aristocracy and that borne out of money, working until the end of the 1920s in the footsteps of 18th century painters – Tiepolo and Goya were his main models.


1936.José María Sert and the League of Nations. Perspective and diplomacy is a case study of  Peace Treaty : a project by San  Sebastian  2016 , European Capital of Culture, organised along  with San Telmo Museoa and Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea; with  the sponsorship of Telefónica and the support of EU-Japan Fest  and the Government of Flanders; and with the collaboration of  the Musée Basque et de l’histoire de Bayonne, DIDAM, Bayonne  City Council, Artium-Basque Museum of Contemporary Art, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jorge Oteiza Museum Foundation,  Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Zumalakarregi Museoa, Laboratorium  Museoa, 8th Centenary of the University of Salamanca and  Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture.


San Sebastián, ciudad de la cultura

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