Anonymous artist behind billboard’s makeover says it was ‘just a poetic endeavour’
In the 65 years since their unmistakeable silhouettes first appeared on Spanish hillsides, the bulls created to advertise Osborne brandy have hosted cinematic trysts, been given a Guernica paintjob, and even borne a phone-checking, coffee-drinking Batman.
Until a fortnight ago, however, no bull had ever vanished, almost completely, into the blue depths of the Spanish spring sky. Today, thanks to an overnight sortie and some very long brushes, the Osborne bull on the outskirts of the small Galician town of Xinzo de Limia is a fetching shade of azure – and a reflection on the impossibility of doing justice to the ever-changing heavens.
The idea for the taurine makeover came after the artist – who wishes to remain anonymous – began to ponder the silhouettes’ trompe l’oeil gap, which is meant to show the sky between the animal’s back legs and tail.
“That bit’s not a cut-out hole, it’s just painted blue,” the artist told the Guardian. “Everyone associates that blue with the blue of the Spanish sky. I thought it would be good to turn all that on its head by painting the ‘hole’ black and the rest of the Osborne bull Spanish-sky blue. It wasn’t about trying to make the bull disappear, it was about making a little bit of black sky appear.”
Once the right paints and kit had been assembled, the artist and their team crept out under cover of dark and began their project. “Sometimes if I feel an idea’s good enough, but that they won’t give me permission, I just go and do it and then they go and undo it,” the artist explained.
When the people and passersby of Xinzo de Limia awoke the next morning, their bull appeared to have gone awol.
“This was just a poetic endeavour,” said the artist. “It was about trying to match the exact colour of the sky – which is something impossible because the sky’s changing every minute, every second. It’s a kind of ode to the sky and how it changes throughout the day. On cloudy days, that blue patch doesn’t work. Perhaps they need to do a study of how many cloudy days there are in each region to decide whether blue or grey is better.”
The painter’s desire for anonymity is not entirely surprising. As – which broke the news of the reimagined ruminant – pointed out, there is only so much bull the law will swallow. In 2005, a young artist in Extremadura was fined and placed under house arrest for two days for transforming an Osborne bull in Cáceres province into a Swiss cow in an apparent attempt to put the area on the cultural map.
The author of the latest bovine beautification, which swiftly attracted the attention of Guardia Civil officers, is keen to stress they are a big fan of the Osborne bulls. “I read one article that said we were trying to make the bull disappear. Not at all. I love the bulls.”
They also gave short shrift to any suggestion of some lurking political or social message, arguing the work is a purely poetic and artistic act. Sometimes, they added, an enormous blue bull is just an enormous blue bull.
“Design-wise, I think they’re one of the best examples in the world because they’re so simple – and that’s why they’ve endured,” the artist said. “But like everything in this country, they’ve been politicised and used by one group against another. Anything you do involving one of these bulls is going to make people think something because they carry such meaning.”


Shop Sephari