Art: In Search of Beauty

Spain has bred more than its share of eminent modern artists, among them Picasso, Joán Miró, Juan Gris and Salvador Dali. But most of them have hotfooted it across the border to France almost as soon as they were old enough to carry their own easels. The artists who stayed behind seemingly found it difficult to forget Spain's great artistic past, and followed, without distinction, the traditions of El Greco, Velasquez and Goya.

Last summer, at Venice's big Biennale, gallerygoers got a glimpse of a fresher trend in Spanish painting, the work of a stay-at-home named Benjamin Palencia. Palencia's boldly colored,...

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