In a place of unparalleled beauty for contemplating the sea, at the end of Ondarreta Beach in San Sebastián, Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924) has created a space of questions and answers that has rapidly become integrated among the defining features of the city. El Peine del Viento, where the horizon, the waves, and the sea merge with the sacred, art, and the Basque identity, has established itself as one of the great artistic works of the last 25 years.
The location where the three sculptural trees of El Peine del Viento stand was, 60 years ago, the original “anvil of dreams” for the teenage Eduardo Chillida. Like other students from San Sebastián, Chillida would skip school on stormy days to gaze at the sea, immerse himself in the tides and the raging winds, ponder the enigma of the horizon, and wonder where the waves came from. While others preferred the open waves unleashed along the Paseo Nuevo of the city, “on the scale of shipwreck,” as architect Luis Peña Ganchegui puts it, the third of the Chillida siblings opted for the rocky promontory at the end of Ondarreta Beach, at the closing of the urban coastline – a more secluded place, more human in scale. He never abandoned that spot, and even now, as the Basque artist wanders lost in his inner labyrinth, pursuing one of his bird-like ideas or, who knows, one of those impossible goals from his days as a goalkeeper, Eduardo returns to El Peine del Viento incessantly.
This point on the coastline, the beginning and end of the city, a corner that was once home to anonymous poets and furtive couples, and a fishing dock in times past, is his home and homeland. It’s the intimate observatory he shared with his wife, Pilar Belzunce, since their high school days – a place he always wanted to transform into an artistic space that he could gift to his fellow citizens. Because even during his student years, before he even considered pursuing a career in architecture, which he later studied in Madrid but abandoned in 1947, four years after starting, young Chillida knew that he understood the “hidden character,” the “will to be” of that location.
An Artist’s Connection to Nature
Eduardo Chillida’s affinity for El Peine del Viento, or ‘The Wind Comb,’ goes beyond artistic creation; it’s a deep-rooted connection to nature and a place of personal significance. Six decades ago, this coastal spot served as a source of inspiration for the young Chillida. Much like his peers in San Sebastián, he would occasionally skip school during storms to witness the tumultuous sea, ponder the mysteries of the horizon, and contemplate the origins of the waves.
While others might have been drawn to the unruly waves along the city’s Paseo Nuevo, Chillida found solace in the sheltered rocky promontory at the end of Ondarreta Beach. This location, where the city meets the sea, provided a more intimate and human-scaled experience of the elements.
Eduardo Chillida’s connection to El Peine del Viento is not limited to his youth. Even today, as he navigates the labyrinth of his creative mind, he returns to this place time and again. It has become a sanctuary, a space that has witnessed the evolution of his ideas and artistic expressions.
From Observation to Artistic Vision
This stretch of coastline, once frequented by poets and clandestine lovers, has evolved into an artistic masterpiece. El Peine del Viento, with its three sculptural trees, stands as a testament to Chillida’s artistic prowess. It is where the limitless horizon, the relentless waves, and the boundless sea merge with the sacred essence of art and the rich Basque identity.
The artist’s vision was not confined to his personal connection to this place; it extended to a desire to share it with his fellow citizens. His dream was to transform this intimate observatory, which he had cherished since high school, into a habitable artistic space that would be a gift to the people of San Sebastián.
Eduardo Chillida’s artistic journey began long before he considered a career in architecture. Although he later pursued architectural studies in Madrid, he ultimately abandoned them in 1947, just four years after embarking on that path. His profound understanding of the “hidden character” and the “will to be” of El Peine del Viento was evident even in his formative years.
A Gift to the City
El Peine del Viento is more than just a work of art; it’s a symbol of the enduring connection between an artist and the natural world. As the waves crash against the sculptures and the wind whistles through their forms, a harmonious dialogue between nature and art unfolds. It’s a conversation that Eduardo Chillida invites us all to join, an exploration of the eternal questions that the sea, the wind, and the horizon pose.
In the heart of San Sebastián, where the city meets the sea, stands a masterpiece that transcends time. El Peine del Viento, shaped by the hands of a visionary artist, is a testament to the enduring power of nature’s beauty and the profound impact it can have on the human soul. Eduardo Chillida’s gift to his city is not just a work of art but a reflection of his deep connection to the place where the wind, the waves, and the sea come together in perfect harmony.