Malaga Memorial: Irish painter honoured


George Campbell would have enjoyed it. A festive mood prevailed yesterday morning when a plaque commemorating his links with the city was unveiled in Malaga.

The Irish painter, who died in 1979, identified strongly with Spain and spent a great deal of time there, based mostly in Pedregalejo, a district on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean city. Also a proficient musician, he steeped himself in local culture and played flamenco guitar.

Now his name will forever be associated with Malaga, engraved as it is on a plaque marking a major junction, overlooked by palms and pine trees, at Cerrado de Calderon, close to Pedregalejo. Under a clear blue sky, with temperatures in the mid-20s, a large crowd, including local dignitaries and politicians, journalists, film crews, Irish expatriates and friends of the artist who had travelled specially for the occasion, watched the ceremony.

Irish Ambassador Peter Gunning delivered a speech noting Malaga's artistic distinction - it is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso - and said that Campbell represented something of the true spirit of Ireland.

Wesley Boyd read a message from the painter's widow, Madge, who was unable to travel.

She and George, she wrote, had spent many happy years in Malaga and made many friends there. He fell in love with the place, the people and the music and, although his body was buried in Ireland, she felt that his heart remained in Malaga. A replica of the plaque was presented to the Ambassador for delivery to her.

Antonis Sierra, the erstwhile director of the Cervantes Institute in Dublin, and a long-time supporter of the initiative, paid tribute to local politicians and administrators who had invested much time and energy in realising it.

It comes as Malaga is establishing itself as a centre for cultural tourism. As well as a Picasso museum it has a Centre for Contemporary Art, boasting a formidable collection. The city is in contention to be European Capital of Culture in 2016.