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Antonio Saura

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Antonio Saura was born in Huesca in 1930 and died in Cuenca in 1998.
Begins painting and writing in 1947 in Madrid while suffering from tuberculosis and confined for five years. Initial artistic research and pictorial experiments. Takes Arp and Tanguy as influences, yet his work already stands out thanks to his highly personal style. Creates numerous dreamlike and surrealist drawings and paintings that usually depict imaginary landscapes and employ a very colorful palette in flat, smooth applications of paint.

First stay in Paris in 1952. Second stay in Paris in 1954 and 1955 during which he meets Benjamin Péret and associates with the surrealists, although he and his friend and fellow painter Simon Hantaï soon quit their circle. By this time, he is using the technique of grattage, or scraping, and adopts a gestural style and a radically abstract, always colorful manner that features an organic design grounded in chance. Begins painting by occupying the space of the canvas in several very distinct ways, creating formal structures that are highly personal and which he will continue to develop in the ensuing years. First appearances of forms that will soon become archetypes of women’s bodies or the human face. These two fundamental themes will come to dominate the greater part of his output.

In 1956 Saura embarks on a new range and level of work that will eventually form his major series, Ladies, Nudes, Self-portraits, Shrouds, and Crucifixions, executing these pieces on both canvas and paper. In 1957 in Madrid founds the group El Paso, which he heads until it breaks up in 1960. Meets Michel Tapié. First solo show at the Rodolphe Stadler Gallery (Paris), where he will regularly exhibit throughout his life. Stadler will also introduce the painter to Otto van de Loo in Munich and Pierre Matisse in New York, both of whom will represent Saura in the coming years. Limits his palette to blacks, grays and browns. Asserts a personal style that is independent of the movements and trends marking his generation. His work follows in the tradition of Velázquez and Goya, and is soon hanging in the major museums.

In 1959 brings out the first of a number of printed works; Saura will prove quite prolific in this medium over the years. Illustrates numerous books in an original way, including Cervantes’s Don Quijote; Orwell’s 1984; Pinocho, Nöstlinger’s adaptation of the Pinocchio story; Kafka’s Tagebücher, Quevedo’s Trois visions and many others.

In 1960, begins working in sculpture, creating pieces that feature welded metal elements depicting the human face, figures and crucifixions. In 1967 settles permanently in Paris, joins the opposition to the Franco dictatorship and takes part in numerous debates and controversies in politics, aesthetics and artistic creation. Enlarges his thematic and pictorial range. Along with the Femmefauteuils (or Womenarmchairs), begins the series Imaginary Portraits, Goya’s Dogs and Goya’s Imaginary Portraits. In 1971 abandons painting on canvas (which he will take up again in 1979) in order to concentrate on writing, drawing and painting on paper.

In 1977 begins publishing his writings and is involved in creating stage designs for theater, ballet and opera. In 1983 produces a new and important series of portraits called Dora Maar or Dora Maar Visited. From this year until his premature death in 1998, returns to all of his themes and figures and brilliantly develops them anew, producing perhaps the best his work has to offer.

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