Spanish Art

New Realism: Antonio López

Considered to be one of the best Spanish artists alive, the painter –and sculptor- Antonio López has been active for more than 60 years now.

Antonio López (1936-)

Spanish Art - Antonio López

Born in Tomelloso, a small village in the province of Ciudad Real, just a few months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Antonio López soon discovered his passion for painting through his uncle, with whom he shared the same name. After those early lessons and his first works based on the observation of the landscape of his hometown and the surrounding fields (if the reader doesn’t have a mental image of what they look like, just go to Machado’s “Campos de Castilla” for descriptions, or look for images of ‘Castilian landscape’ on the internet), the young artist moved to the capital of Spain, Madrid, to study at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (the city’s main art school, where also studied great painters like Dalí and Maruja Mallo).

During his stay in Madrid –from 1950 to 1955- he became part of the so-called Escuela de Madrid (or ‘Madrid School’) with fellow artists and students Enrique Gran, Amalia Avia and Lucio Muñoz. After he finished his studies, he was granted a scholarship that allowed him to travel to Italy, in order to be able to study the great Italian masters in situ. But what happened was that Antonio López was greatly disappointed by the real works and paintings that he had studied from book reproductions. This event made him turn towards the Spanish masters like Velázquez, whom he head been able to study over his frequent visits to the Prado museum in Madrid. He started revaluing the way of the Spanish painters over his former Italian myths, which can be considered his first great moment of self-knowledge and artistic reaffirmation in his own scholastic tradition.

Soon after his studies were finished (both those at the San Fernando Fine Arts School and the Italian trip), he started organizing exhibitions. His first exhibition took place in his home town, Tomelloso, in 1957, a show that was later brought to Madrid and started granting him a good share of popularity amongst the Madrid art world. At the same time, he started a married life with the fellow artist María Moreno, who would soon become the mother of his two daughters, María and Carmen.

Also, from 1965 to 1969 he was appointed as head teacher of Color preparation at the same academy where he studied, the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. Antonio López continued working on his paintings, and at the same time started developing a strong passion for sculpture, an artistic discipline that hasn’t brought him as much fame as his paintings. His notable style and breathtaking work granted him the Príncipe de Asturias Prize already in 1985, and in 1990 the famous experimental Spanish director Víctor Erice featured him in a documentary film called “El sol del membrillo” in which his artistic style and technique was analysed through the painting of a quince tree that stood on the artist’s backyard.

Later on, in 1993, Antonio López was appointed as member of the board of the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, his mother school. On that same year, the museum Reina Sofía organised a grand exhibition that would serve as a complete retrospective of the artist’s work. This meant his second coming to the eye of the public, which now rediscovered the artist’s work almost 60 years after he was born.

Spanish Art - Antonio López

As it usually happens, the artist started receiving recognition for his work at a late age, and in 2006, at age 70, he was awarded the Velazquez Prize of Fine Arts, and only two years later the Boston Fine Arts Museum organised a monographic exhibition on his work. That same year his painting “Madrid desde Torres Blancas” was auctioned at Christies, and reached a price which was the highest price paid for a painting by a living Spanish artist.

His style can be defined as obsessive and detailed, as he takes sometimes year or decades to finish a painting of a view or a landscape. As the artist famously said once “A painting is never ended, but one reaches the limit of one’s possibilities”. If you ever come to learn Spanish in Spain, you will soon come across Antonio López’s work, as his famous baby heads sit right outside Madrid’s main train station.

© Spanish Arts 2011