Christopher Hoare from Alpujarras: The Quiet Magician
In Spain’s high mountains, in a small, old village and the oldest, least accessible quarter of that, lives an English painter who has been quietly but faithfully producing some of the most magical work to come out of Andalusia in the past two decades.
The romantic is such a forgotten figure, so unmodern, that it is hard to find a surviving specimen of the species. But here, unnoticed by fame and fortune, Christopher Hoare has been making the survival of art and an art of survival his business for the past thirty years.
To find him one has to venture to the Sierra Nevada mountains of Granada, where eagles soar and wild boar bulldoze the scrub, where the Poqueira river thunders in the gorge way below and a small, proud village stands out in the high reaches. Capileira in the old Moorish kingdom of La Alpujarra is the second highest village in Spain and one of the most captivating.
To enter the maze of streets of ancient dwellings, built topsy-turvy down the slopes of the ravine, is to wander into a dream. Hugh Palmer singles Capileira out in his book “The Most Beautiful Villages of Spain” for the enchanting Berber architecture of its labyrinthine streets, set spectacularly high and alone against the often snowy backdrop of the Sierra.
Christopher Hoare and his American wife, Jackie, came to La Alpujarra in 1976. It was easy enough to get by on precious little, and little was what they had: and so they stayed. This was decades before the Andalusian mountain area was discovered by people fleeing England, “driving over lemons” to holiday or settle in a peaceful, sun-blessed corner of Europe.
The Alpujarra of the 70s was one of Spain’s poorest and most forgotten spots. Mains electricity had only arrived there in 1957 and people got by as they traditionally had, on subsistence farming and livestock.
Even today, families grow their own vegetables and make their own wine; they sacrifice pigs fed on scraps and turn them into sausage and ham to last out the year.
Rural tourism in the 1990s brought a boom to an area that now has good facilities to offer to the visitor, yet many houses remain as austere and unadorned as the Hoare home and studio, integrated into a similarly simple lifestyle that they have somehow made sustainable.
Chris and his wife, Jackie, talk here about their life in a remote corner of Spain, and we consider the art of an unassuming magician.