In 1900. José Gutiérrez Solana (Madrid, 1886-1945) attended la Escuela Especial de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado de (Special Painting, Sculpture and Painting School at the)la Real Academia (the Royal Academy) de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (of Fine Arts of San Fernando), where Victorio Macho and Ramón Zubiaurre were among his fellow students. In 1904 his work was exhibited at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts but relegated to the so-called “sala del crimen” (crime room), along with those of Isidro Nonell, Joaquín Mir, José Victoriano González, Julio Romero de Torres and Darío de Regoyos. From 1918. Solana became a regular at the gatherings in Café de Pombo, where he became friends with Ramón Gómez de la Serna whose first biography of the artist was published that same year. During these years various works were shown at the Royal Academy in London and his first solo exhibition was organized by the Ateneo de Santander.
In 1928 he traveled to Paris at the invitation of the intellectual Edgar Neville to exhibit at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Faubourgh Saint Honoré; he spent part of the Civil War years in this city. The Parisian adventure did not bring him many benefits until years later when the French state acquired some of his works. He took part in the Exhibition of Spanish Art held in the Hague, Amsterdam and New York and in 1929 he received the Medalla de la Exposición Universal de Barcelona (Medal of the Barcelona Universal Exposition).
After the war the artist returned to Spain and became a great success. A few days after his death he was posthumously awarded the Medalla del Honor Nacional (Medal of National Honor). Considered one of the best graphic chroniclers of Spain in the first third of the 20th century, Solana combined his artistic output with the publication of several essays among which La España negra (1920), dedicated to Ramón Gómez de la Serna stands out. A mixture of personal experiences and a travel guide in which he describes, as a witness or portraitist, the various human features and the traditional aspects of the cities he visits in the Iberian peninsula. As Andrés Trapiello points out in the foreword to the revised 1998 edition,. “la España negra is not a portrait of a past left behind, but an altarpiece that reflects the deepest layers of a nation reluctant to modernize”.