Exhibition: The cupboard - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2003-11-12 • 2004-02-22

The cupboard


Antonio López García was born in Tomelloso, Ciudad Real, in 1936. His uncle, the painter, Antonio López Torres introduced him to the trade early on. At the tender age of thirteen, he moved to Madrid and prepared his entrance to the Art School while at the same time frequenting the Museum of Artistic Reproductions (Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas) and the Art and Trades School (Escuela de Artes y Oficios). Between 1950 and 1955 he studied painting in the San Fernando Higher Art School in Madrid.

Soon after finishing his studies, he travelled to Italy and Greece and was particularly impressed by the painters of the Treceto and the Quattrocento and, especially by the work of Piero della Francesca. He worked in Tomelloso and in Madrid until 1960. In 1961, he married María Moreno, who was also a painter. Between 1964 and 1969 he gave lessons as the professor in charge of the Preparatory Department of Colouring in the San Fernando Art School. In 1992, the director, Víctor Erice directed the full length feature film El sol del membrillo, which focused on Antonio López's creative process and which was awarded the International Critics' Prize at the Cannes Festival the same year. In January 1993, he was made a member of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Art. At present, he lives and works in Madrid.

Attached as he is to the so-called "Madrid realism", Antonio López is one of the most personal artists on the post Civil War Spanish scene. Since the 1950s, his work has included drawings, engravings, painting and sculptures, which have gone towards creating an air of timelessness and great technical virtuosity centred on the realist representation of human beings and objects. His iconographic repertoire always starts from the reality of what is visual and varies between the spaces of intimacy and external immensity – portraits, still life, interiors and domestic objects and vast panoramas.

La alacena (The cupboard), an oil painting on wood, 200x100 painted in 1963, is one of Antonio López's most emblematic works. Technically, the painting is dense and the painter incorporates some resources which are taken from surrealism and informalism, such as the stains, scrapings and even added bits of material: marble dust, which was later burnt, can be found in La alacena (The cupboard). With this procedure the agglutinating agent of the oil painting, i.e. the oil, disappears or is reduced and the painting on wood acquires a dry, rough appearance, which is at times similar in appearance to a mural.

For the theme and its resources, it belongs to a group of works, often described as being somewhat surrealistic, in which fantasy and emotion burst into everyday life. Disturbing objects which entice one to reflect are added to the taste for representation of what is real -a set of objects of everyday use laid out on a piece of furniture-. In this way, a female bust suspended in the top left hand corner -a portrait, in actual fact, of his wife- appears as a tutelary presence which, as in classical tradition or popular votive offerings, serves to protect the domestic microcosm from chaos. The lighted candle, also suspended in the air, gives added strength and incorporates a hint of fleetingness, which also appears in the flowers and the fruit.

This concurrence of the supernatural and everyday life creates a relationship between these works and Spanish baroque style and, as in Sánchez Cotán's still life paintings, the painter's intense, concentrated look at objects gives the work a supernatural halo and prompts the admirer to immerse himself in reflexive, engrossed contemplation. The use of light or, to be more exact, the use of half-light in which the objects are bathed and which reinforces the sensation, often present in Antonio Lopez´s work, of silence and the absence of time, greatly contributes to this air of metaphysical fantasy, of a suggestion of the invisible through the visible.