San Sebastián, 1933-2011

“A painting is good when there is a fight. Painting is always a life or death struggle, in which you can win or lose. Painting is not a matter of aesthetics or decorative art: it is something that is part of life, it is expression, it is testimony, it is permanence, and a lot of love”.

One of the most recognized Basque artists of today, Bonifacio was born in San Sebastián in 1933, but emigrated with his mother, Andalusian of gypsy blood, and sister to France, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, when his accused father was shot for being a militiaman of the republican side. A year later they return to Guipúzcoa where they enter the Casa de Misericordia due to the economic hardships they are experiencing. There he sings in the choir of white voices of the Cathedral of Buen Pastor and begins his passion for painting thanks to a box of watercolors that his teacher gives him.
The precarious economic situation the family is going through forces him to carry out all kinds of jobs, from hotel bellboy, kitchen boy, blacksmith apprentice, cabinetmaker, laundry, inshore fisherman, drummer in a Jazz group ... even novillero, but a serious goring in the bullring of Bilbao makes him withdraw from active bullfighting.

He will remain a great fan of both jazz and bullfighting for the rest of his life.

In 1955, after receiving the first prize for painting in San Sebastián, he decided to enroll in the School of Arts and Crafts, from which he would end up expelled. He learned painting with a local painter and began his friendship with Eduardo Chillida.

1958 marks the year of Bonifacio's artistic birth: he starred in his first solo show at the Ateneo de Guipúzcoa, and traveled to Paris where he met Mompó, Modest Cuixart and Antonio Saura.

Already in the 60s he settled in Bilbao and held individual exhibitions in San Sebastián, Buenos Aires, Bilbao, Burgos and Zaragoza. The versatile Fernando Zóbel - who buys him two paintings for the future Museum of Spanish Abstract Art - suggests that he settles in Cuenca where an important cultural network was developing, and there he meets artists of the stature of José Guerrero, Gustavo Torner, Gerardo Rueda, Eusebio Sempere and Manuel Millares. He makes a special friendship with Antonio Saura.

Juan Manuel Bonet says of this time: “Antonio Saura was one of the first to detect Bonifacio's talent. They had met (...) in Paris in 1958, but the very close friendship that united them dates back at least a decade later: from the beginning of his Cuenca stay. An unequivocal sign of the appreciation that the “senior” had for Bonifacio is that he bought several works from him, and that some of them were among the few that he hung in his house in Cuenca.

We have the privilege of being able to exhibit here one of the works that Saura bought from Bonifacio.

Bonifacio will live in Cuenca from 1968 to 1996.
In 1970 Bonifacio became part of the list of authors of Juana Mordó, the most prestigious gallerist in Madrid of those years, and her work began to be exhibited in centers such as the Museum of Abstract Art of Cuenca, Museum of Contemporary Art of Vitoria, Bilbao Modern Art Museum ... A series of exhibitions begins throughout Spain and beyond.

In 1989 he decided to move his studio to the Madrid neighborhood of Lavapies. He spends long periods in Mexico, both in the D.F and in the rest of the country. He was commissioned to design twenty-six stained glass windows for the Cathedral of Cuenca, together with Gerardo Rueda, Gustavo Torner and Henri Dechanet.

Six years later, he left the Juana Mordó Gallery, after his sixth exhibition, becoming part of the group of artists at the Antonio Machón Gallery.
The death of his mother and the prohibition by his doctors to drink alcohol and smoke tobacco make him fall into a deep depression at the dawn of the year 2000, although his work continues to be exhibited all over the world.

He passed away in his hometown on December 16th, 2011 at the age of 78.

“I have never experienced the pleasure of painting (...). For me painting is a fight ”.

Exhibited Works

  • “Sin título”, oil on canvas, 1985.
  • "Autorretrato", ink on paper, 1961.