William Brooker (1918-1983)
signed and dated ‘Brooker. 53’ (lower right) and inscribed & dated ‘Maizefield Ibiza 1953’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 60.9 cm.)
frame 23 ⅛ x 29¼ in. (58.8 x 74.3 cm.)
A painter’s painting, the present work by William Brooker was executed in 1953, before Ibiza began to open up to international tourism later in the decade. When Brooker would have visited, the island would have been like stepping into a time machine: Ibiza had one of the most archaic communities in Europe, where the locals still performed ceremonies, songs, and dance routines traceable to the Carthaginians (1). Although today, regulations dictate that all new hotels must be five star rated, it’s likely that the artist’s accommodation would have been far more rudimentary. It’s not entirely surprising that Brooker decided to paint the landscape, as Ibiza is famed for outstanding natural beauty: significant swathes are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and to this day, maize can still be seen growing on the island.
Besides it’s exceptional beauty and being one of the world’s premier holiday destinations, Ibiza is also rich in history, and claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. It was also where Nostradamus, in the 16th Century, prophesied would become the world’s final refuge. The first settlements date back to over 3000 years ago, while Ibiza Town was founded by the Phoenicians in 654 B.C., making it one of the oldest towns in Europe. The Phoenicians believed the island’s red soil to have magical qualities, and named it Ibosim, after their god of dance, Bes. Taken over by the Carthaginians (to whom the island was of key strategic importance for trading) Ibiza subsequently became an outpost of the Roman Empire. When this rule came to an end, the island was conquered in turn by the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Arabs, the latter of whom ruled for nearly half a millennium; Moorish influence can still be observed in the architecture, and in the island’s dialect Ibencenco.
After falling under Spanish rule in 1235, Ibiza later became a popular destination for marauding and pillaging pirates - perhaps an early incarnation of the package holiday. To remedy this issue, the inhabitants fixed cannons to the roofs of fortified churches, and built reinforced walls which surround the town to this very day.
Ibiza’s club-culture can be traced back to the hippies who congregated in the 1960s, relatively soon after Brooker painted the present work. The ancient communities and untouched culture made Ibiza an attractive stop for those on the trail to India. During the following decade nightclubs began to appear, of which Pacha, Privilege (formerly Ku), Amnesia and Es Paradís are still going, to this very day.
William Brooker lived in Notting Hill, and trained at Croydon School of Art (under Ruskin Spear), Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmiths. A joint exhibition with William Scott, R.A., was organised by the British Council, and his work was exhibited numerous times at the Royal Academy, Leicester Gallery, and Agnews.
(1) To view early footage of Ibiza, please click here.