Antonio Saura

Huesca, 1930 – Cuenca, 1998

Antonio Saura was born in 1930, the eldest son of a cultured family of four siblings. His father is a state attorney and his mother is a pianist. At the age of 13, a bone tuberculosis forced him to stay in bed for five years, during which time he devoted himself to reading and drawing. Self-taught, he never received an academic training. At the age of 20 he exhibited for the first time in Zaragoza.

In 1952 he moved to Paris, where he lived until 1955. There he came into contact with the avant-gardes of the time, with French informalism and with the American abstract expressionism of Pollock and De Kooning. His work evolves from an initial surrealism towards a painting with energetic strokes and a reduced palette, towards the abstract and gestural art.

When he returns to his country, he becomes the theorist of Spanish informalism.

In 1957 he founded the El Paso group in Madrid together with artists such as Canogar, Feito, Millares, whose Manifesto read: «We believe that our art will not be valid until it contains a concern coinciding with the signs of the time, making a passionate contact with the most innovative artistic currents. We are moving towards a revolutionary visual arts - in which our dramatic tradition and our direct expression are present - that responds historically to a universal activity ».

His work takes from surrealism the negative, the monstrous, the natural, the violent and the intuitive, from Action Painting he takes the gestural character of the creative process and of informalism, abstraction.

His black and gray strokes on white serve to dump his bitterness and his resounding political and social discontent. His dissections of nudes, self-portraits, crucifixions, cures, crowds or his reinterpretations of masterpieces by his admired Goya or Velázquez, star in most of an extensive work represented in the great European museums of contemporary art.

In his last stage, he rejected the small format to create large compositions in which he also introduced color.

Exhibited Works

  • “Dora Maar”, oil on canvas, 1983.

A great admirer of Picasso's work, whose influence will be constant throughout his entire work, Antonio Saura finally gets to meet him in 1969 in Paris, at the request of André Breton.
The series "Dora Maar", produced between April 25th and May 25th, 1983, is undoubtedly the most Picassian, and at the same time the most relevant, of Saura's work. The initiative arose as follows: in 1983, the director of the Picasso gallery in Antibes wanted to pay him a posthumous tribute to the ten years of his death. For it, he invited a series of internationally recognized artists to paint a work that was related to another by Picasso. Saura received the commission and decided to be inspired by the work «Femme au chapeau bleu», portrait of one of the genie's lovers, Dora Maar. According to his words: «I memorized him forever and I can draw him blindly. I know perfectly what the hat is like, what the nose is like, prolonged like an elephant's trunk, what this exorbitant eye is like, what that bulging neck is like and what that kind of little collar looks like on the rounded black body».
In a frenzy, Saura made 28 variations of this portrait of Dora Maar in 28 days and turned him into one of his characters-monsters, painting her a fierce and severed mouth cone menacing teeth at the neck level reminiscent of the lace throat of his Felipe II.
The deformation of the face through violent brush strokes gives it an inhuman appearance, becoming part of the gallery of grotesque characters of the great painter.

  • “Tête”, oil, ink, collage and fabric on paper, 1981.
  • “Moi”, screenprint, 1976.