After choosing the tango lyrics where mostly urban scenes were depicted I began doing sketches for the series about the landscapes of the tango. Very soon I realized that what I wanted to paint was not only the landscapes of the city but also the inner landscapes found in tango lyrics. Those landscapes were the mirrors of Buenos Aires life, and they allowed me to see its characters in their diverse shades.

“Ghostly Dance” oil on canvas SOLD

The Last Guapo, the Last Hand Organ, The Last Tango Room, The Last Street Lamp are some of the tango lyrics that talk about lost things. Like yellowish pictures from a time gone, they show a faded image of things poets would like to keep forever. The three paintings of Gosthly Dance are landscapes from the last tango room: couples of mannequins, naked bodies, empty clothes dancing tango for the last time. (“El último bailongo“– The Last Tango Room– written by Horacio Ferrer was my inspiration to paint these inner landscapes)

"Moon & Mistery"
“Moon & Mistery” oil on canvas

The neighborhood theme can be found in many lyrics; some tango titles with the same theme are:“Barrio pobre–Poor Neighborhood, “Barrio reo”–Underground Neighborhood, and “Barrio de tango,” Tango’s Neighborhood. Porteňos, as people born in Buenos Aires are called, idealize the past; they cry when they come back to the barrio after a long time and realize that everything has changed. They cannot believe there is nothing left and wonder where are the beautiful things they remember: the street lamps, the patio where they used to dance tango, their sweethearts and friends. When I was painting “Moon and Mystery” I tried to capture the atmosphere of “Barrio de tango,” written in 1942 by Homero Manzi.


We also find another theme in tango lyrics: the bandoneon. When the flute was replaced by the bandoneon, tango music became more profound, more temperamental. Its whining sound mirrors the sorrow of the lyrics, and there is a secret communication between the poet, who oftentimes is also a musician, and the bandoneon. This instrument is the poet’s best friend, and he tells it all his troubles. By painting “Feelings” I tried to portray the communion person-instrument and how they become one entity. ( In 1950 Homero Manzi wrote “Che, bandoneon”– Hey, Bandoneon.)


My painting “ Desolation “ tells about a man’s loneliness after being abandoned by his woman. This character can be found in many tango lyrics that refer to a “compadrito” whose woman used to work for him as a prostitute. He cries not only because he feels alone and old, but also because he is not going to get any money from her and won’t be able to buy the luxurious things he is used to having. ( I found inspiration to portray this story in “Mi noche triste” —
My Night of Sorrows– by Pascual Contursi, 1917.)

‘Nostalgia” oil on canvas

In “Nostalgia” I portrayed La Boca’s port with its dock, its bridge, and its old cargo boats that will remain forever anchored, leaving their nocturnal long shadows and the figures of nostalgic Italian immigrants engraved in the landscape. We can sense, through many lyrics, that the immigrants who came to Argentina looking for a better future for their families were frustrated due to the poor living conditions they had to endure. Sometimes they dreamed of going back to die in their countries. ( Enrique Cadícamo wrote in 1937 “Niebla del Riachuelo” — Fog in the riachuelo river. Enrique Lary’s “Canzoneta”another italian popular song about the same subject — was written in 1953.

"Empty Suits"
“Empty Suits” oil on canvas

The large number of European immigrants who began to arrive in Argentina a century ago brought with them their cultural heritage: language, music, feelings. Those things were part of their legacy to that country, but at the same time they assimilated to Argentinean culture. This exchange between cultures gave the country another physiognomy: many foreign words were incorporated to its slang, there was access to music from other countries, and different stories could be heard in its streets.
This new human landscape was apprehended by the children of the immigrants. Their parents did not have the time or the skills to write their stories, stories about nostalgia, assimilation, memories

Copyright 2009 Raquel Partnoy
All right reserved