Antonio López García
He was born in Tomelloso, Ciudad Real, on January 6, 1936, to a wealthy family who lived by cultivating their land; a few months before the start of the Spanish civil war, which occurred on July 17 with the uprising of the army. The war would end three years later, on April 1, 1939, giving way to a thirty-seven-year long military dictatorship led by Francisco Franco. However, Antonio López remembers his childhood in the town as a happy and quiet time. It is there where he began his artistic training with his uncle, the painter Antonio López Torres, who, observing his ease of drawing, an activity in which he found more and more pleasure, copying for hours plates that reproduced paintings from the 19th century, during the summer of 1949, he guides him in his first drawings and paintings from life. In October of that same year, his uncle convinced his parents to have Antonio travel to Madrid to prepare for the entrance exam to the San Fernando School of Fine Arts. To do this, he mainly works on the drawing of a statue, copying the plaster casts of the Museum of Artistic Reproductions, then located in the Casón del Buen Retiro, and also attending courses at the School of Arts and Crafts in the afternoons. From this moment on, he met who would be his friends and main generation partners from now on: the brothers and sculptors Julio and Francisco López Hernández, the painters Joaquín Ramo, Enrique Gran, Lucio Muñoz, and the painter and writer Francisco Nieva, among others . A little later, the painters María Moreno, Isabel Quintanilla and Amalia Avia will be added to the circle of friends. At the age of fourteen, he passed the entrance exam at the San Fernando School, where he studied official Fine Arts between 1950 and 1955. In 1955 he traveled to Italy, along with Francisco López, thanks to a travel bag from the Ministry of National Education. That same year he exhibited in the halls of the General Directorate of Fine Arts with Francisco and Julio López Hernández and Lucio Muñoz, the latter already heading towards abstraction.
When he finished his studies, he returned to Tomelloso and prepared his first solo exhibition there, which took place at the Madrid Athenaeum in December 1957. In 1958 he won the Fine Arts contest of the Rodríguez Acosta Foundation, in the “Still Life” section. , for which he receives a scholarship with which he travels to Greece, again accompanied by Francisco López; with whom he will also visit Rome, thanks to another scholarship from the Ministry of Education. Until 1960, he lived between Tomelloso and Madrid, the two most important places for him, both artistically and as a residence. During this stage, the happy memories of his childhood and adolescence in Tomelloso inspire him to carry out a large number of works in which the people or the things and people who have accompanied him are present. His work of those moments is fully figurative and, in it, he develops a wide variety of subjects ranging from still lifes with a certain fantastic character, cheerful plant themes, portraits loaded with strength and expression, as well as a series of paintings in which the city and landscape are shown as the background of the figures and still lifes. In the production of these years, elements from different artistic currents such as cubism or surrealism are found, the latter being the most recurrent as they helped to reinforce the narrative nature of the works. The sculpture already occupies an important part of his production, making especially impressive polychrome reliefs and some expressive round-shaped sculptures, such as those representing his daughter María as a child.
Starting in 1960, he began to paint the first views of Madrid in which the city was the protagonist; theme that will occupy a large space in your production throughout your career. The decade of the sixties will mark, although it will take place gradually, its final step towards the objective representation of reality. In this period he will alternate works in which the focus is already fully attached to reality, with others in which surreal elements still appear.
In 1961 he received the Juan March Foundation Scholarship; institution that years later incorporated the oil Figures in a house (1967) into its collection. That same year he married the painter María Moreno and held his second solo exhibition at the Biosca Gallery in Madrid, then directed by Juana Mordó. A few years later, in 1964, he came to be represented by the recently opened Juana Mordó Gallery in Madrid. The international contacts of this gallery involve a series of exhibitions, especially in Germany and the United States, which allow his work to become part of international collections and museums. In Germany, great interest was generated in Spanish realist art at that time, initially by the art dealer Ernesto Wuthenow, which would continue until the 1980s and crystallized in numerous group exhibitions, including the painters Antonio López. Torres, Isabel Quintanilla, María Moreno and the sculptor Francisco López. Highlights include the collective exhibitions on international contemporary painting and sculpture held at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1964 and 1967, as well as the 1964 New York World's Fair dedicated to Spanish art, sponsored by the General Directorate of Fine Arts.
Between 1964 and 1969 he was the professor in charge of the Chair of Preparatory for Colorido at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid, which he left to devote himself entirely to his artistic career; although later, sporadically, he has taught courses at different cultural institutions.
During the sixties, his works covered a wide variety of subjects, including portraits of people in his environment, interiors, plant themes and urban views, always painted in front of the motif that, on many occasions, were interrupted and retaken over a period of time. dilated in time. In the late sixties, drawing took up more time and space in his production, making several autonomous drawings in which he depicts the interiors and bathrooms of the places where his life and work take place. Precisely, this great dedication to drawing will be the one that influences the purification of his painting, in which the composition will already be clearly seen, losing material burden. At this stage he works interchangeably in the three artistic languages that have served him to express and communicate his subjects: drawing, painting and sculpture.
During these years Antonio López participates in numerous group exhibitions and some individual ones. Outstanding among the latter, due to their impact, are those held at the Staempfli Gallery in New York in 1965 and 1968. Both exhibitions represent their consecration at the international level, while making it easier for their work to be scattered throughout different North American collections that, coinciding with the boom of the realistic and hyperrealistic tendencies in the United States, they develop an interest in the Spanish realistic current. His next solo exhibition occurs again outside Spain, in 1972, at the Parisian gallery Claude Bernard. In this period he continues to make strong realism drawings and oils in which the interiors and, now also, the windows of his studio are the protagonists. He works these works exhaustively for long periods, carrying out precise light studies, using different techniques and formats, adapting reality.
In those years, following an individual exhibition organized by the Galatea Gallery in Turin, Antonio López's work found great acceptance in Italy and became part of several collections. Various paintings from the late 1950s, which still have a surrealist echo, are shown there, as well as some paintings from the 1960s that already have a realistic orientation, accompanied by a few polychrome reliefs in which the Italian public finds something familiar and suggestive. Since the shape of the bas-relief has been closely linked to the art of that country since Antiquity. But this affinity is two-way, since Italian art has a great influence not only on López's work, but also on the group of artists who work on reality in Madrid and with whom he maintains a strong bond of friendship and companionship. This influence is not limited to the visual arts, since the Italian neo-realist cinema of the 1940s, which portrays reality with such fidelity and expressiveness, has a great impact on them. It has precisely the same objective and direct focus that they seek in their representations, life expressed without decorations, without palliatives.
In 1970 he became represented by what is still his gallery, the Marlborough Gallery. Three years after being represented, in 1973, the London headquarters organized an important group exhibition dedicated to Spanish realism to show the two main generations of Spanish painters and realistic sculptors of that time, among whom was Antonio López. In 1974 he received the Darmstadt City Prize for the double portrait in polychrome wood Antonio and Mari (1968), which is part of the Städtische Kunstsammlung collection of that city and which has permanently deposited it in the Hessisches Landesmuseum. A few years later, in 1983, he received the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts and the Pablo Iglesias Prize in the visual arts modality.
1985 was a significant year in Antonio López's career. It was then that the Fundación Juan March organized its first retrospective exhibition in Spain at the Museo de Albacete. That same year he was selected to represent Spain with Eduardo Chillida and Antoni Tàpies in the important exhibition of Spanish art Europalia 85. Spain , which was held in Brussels and in other Belgian cities, and which had a great impact among critics. This year he was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts , one of the most prestigious artistic awards in Spain.
In 1986, the Marlborough Gallery organized an individual exhibition that he presented at its headquarters in New York and London. In 1990 the film director Víctor Erice filmed the film El sol del membrillo , which shows the creative process of Antonio López and which, after its premiere in 1992, is awarded the International Critics Prize and the Jury Prize at the Festival Cannes that year; with the golden Hugo for best fiction film at the 1992 Chicago International Film Festival and with the Best Film Award of the decade for the Ontario Cinematheque in 1999.
In 1993 the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicated his first major anthological exhibition to him, showing almost all of his production, including one hundred and seventy works including drawings, sketches, paintings and sculptures. This sample supposes the definitive consecration of his work. That same year he was appointed Full Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando de Madrid.
In 1995, he was selected to take part in the exhibition Identità e alterità, curated by Jean Claire, first hosted at the Palazzo Grassi and then at the Museo Correr, both in Venice, Italy. In 1998 he was appointed member of the Board of Trustees of the Prado Museum, a position that he will hold until May 2009. In 1999, the Valladolid City Council commissioned Antonio López and the sculptors Francisco and Julio López Hernández to make a monumental sculpture, in bronze, representing the seated figures of the Kings of Spain. It was the first sculptural team work carried out by the three sculptors. The sculpture was inaugurated in 2001 in its current location, the Cloister of the San Benito Museum in Valladolid -today Patio Herreriano-.
In October 2001, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía organized a presentation to show the Male and Female sculptures along with nineteen of their preparatory drawings, which had just entered the museum's holdings by Repsol YPF. Thus, they joined three other important works by Antonio López belonging to the museum's permanent collection: Los novios (1955), Madrid from Cerro del Tío Pío (1962-63) and Madrid from Capitán Haya (1987-94). In recent years, this institution has acquired other relevant works from the production of Antonio López. In 2004, in recognition of his work, he was named Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. In July of that year, he received the Medal of Honor from the Menéndez Pelayo International University and, in September, the Ciudad Alcalá de Henares Prize for the Arts.
In 2006, he delivered his largest format urban painting to date to the Madrid Assembly, Madrid from the Vallecas fire tower , which is over four meters wide and represents almost the entire surface of the city seen from that point . In it, in addition to wanting to document the city, representing its most characteristic buildings with the definition that this desire demanded, there is a great study of light and sky, which does not escape contamination, achieving a totally real and recognizable image of Madrid. In June this year he received the Velázquez Prize for Plastic Arts , the highest award for Fine Arts in Spain.
In 2008 he completed his first commission for public monumental sculpture alone, two large monumental bronze heads three meters high, representing his baby granddaughter. These works, La Noche and El Día , are installed in what was their first location in Madrid's Atocha station, in the access hall to the platforms. They are currently outside the station. These sculptures inspired him to start working on different sculptural works focused on the human figure. In April 2008, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston dedicated a solo exhibition - which has great echo in the international critic scene - in parallel to a historical exhibition that addressed Spanish art during the reign of Felipe III: El Greco to Velázquez, Art During the Reign of Philip III .
In February 2010 he received the Penagos Drawing Prize from the Mapfre Foundation in Madrid. In October of that same year, his second public sculpture, La mujer de Coslada , was inaugurated on Avenida de la Constitución in that Madrid municipality.
In June 2011, a solo exhibition was inaugurated at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, combining retrospective character with the presentation of his most recent work, which had not yet seen the light. This exhibition, which is exhibited from October 2011 to January 2012 also at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, confirms the enormous interest that his work has among the public and critics, both nationally and internationally. Success that continues in his traveling solo exhibition through various museums in Japan during 2013, beginning on April 27 at the Bunkamura Museum of Art in Tokyo. The following year, he was invited by Vittorio Sgarvi to participate in the famous La Milanesiana festival of 2014, in which a special exhibition was organized in which his oil and drawing The Dinner in Front of the Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio was presented, making it possible a new reading of these works.
In December 2014, he delivered the painting The Family of Juan Carlos I , a highly complex work that has required a lot of dedication - in which he has worked intermittently for the last twenty years. It is a painting of great magnitude, both because it is a portrait of the royal family –which unites it with the portraits of Spanish monarchs painted by artists of past centuries–, as well as for its large size –300 x 340 cm– and because the He has worked through photographs, tirelessly investigating the composition, without doing it directly from nature. This work was presented within the framework of a National Heritage exhibition dedicated to the royal portrait at the Royal Palace of Madrid: Portrait in royal collections. From Juan de Flandes to Antonio López . During that same month, an individual exhibition dedicated to his figure - Antonio López García - was inaugurated in Vicenza, Italy, with a certain retrospective character, but in which the main focus is on his sculptural pieces and some recent oil drawings that, like those deal with the naked human figure. In this way, after more than forty years since his last solo exhibition, Antonio López shows his most recent work to the Italian public, which gives him a great reception. In parallel, and in the same city, a large group exhibition dedicated to the night is organized - Tutankhamun, Caravaggio, Van Gogh. The will be ei notturni dagli Egizi al Novecento -, with works by great international artists of past and contemporary centuries, including Zurbarán, Van Gogh, Rothko and Francis Bacon and in which Antonio López participates with four works.
In August 2015 he exhibited individually at the Sala Robayera in Miengo, Cantabria. In October of the same year, a selection of his latest pieces was presented, combined with some works from previous stages within the framework of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend at the Marborough Gallery in this city.
In February 2016, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid dedicated an exhibition to the group of fellow artists and friends who have worked on figuration since the 1950s and 1960s in Madrid: Realistas de Madrid . It is a new opportunity for the public to see Antonio's work, along with that of his colleagues Isabel Quintanilla, Francisco and Julio López, María Moreno, Amalia Avia and Esperanza Parada, thus offering a comparison between their different attitudes towards the issues and technique, but also its points of convergence.
In September 2017, his largest public sculpture to date, La mujer del Almanzora, is inaugurated between the Casa Ibáñez Museum and the Pérez Siquier Center in Olula del Rïo, Almertía. On the same date, he published his first artist book: Cuerpos y flores, with the publishing house Artika. In October of the same year, he received the title of Honourary Academician from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos de Valencia.
Several distinctions were awarded to him during the following year: Doctor Honoris Causa from the Complutense University, Madrid; the Medal of Honour from the Carlos III University, Madrid, and the Collegiate of Honour from the Madrid College of Architects.
On April 26, 2019, an individual exhibition is opened at the Silos Monastery. While focusing on some of his latest works of flowers, including a large part of his Rosas de Ávila series, they were joined by some of his representations of children, giving an introspective and contemplative character to the show. After almost six months, it closed on October 13, 2019.
On February 17, 2020, his wife, the painter María Moreno, died at 86. In September 2020, a retrospective exhibition curated by Tomás and Boye Llorens is inaugurated at the Bancaja Foundation in Valencia, including a wide selection of recent and in-process works by Antonio. The exhibition also displayed a selected choice of works by María Moreno in two rooms. Although the show coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, it was developed with the necessary measures and restrictions, achieving a good turnout which enabled its extension until February 28, 2021.
The Community of Madrid dedicated from April 19 to June 20, 2021, an exhibition in tribute to Antonio at its headquarters in the Real Casa de Correos, in the Puerta del Sol square, Madrid, displaying in the patio his pair of monumental sculptures Carmen awaken and Carmen asleep.
Author: Beatriz Hidalgo Caldas
Date: April 2021