Alfonso Ponce de León (Malaga, 1906 - Madrid, 1936) was a well-known and respected painter in Spanish circles despite his short life. However, both his work as an illustrator for books and magazines and his paintings, just over twenty oil canvasses remained hidden for decades after his death. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía holds the best-known work by the painter, Accidente (1936), where Ponce de Leon portrays himself as the victim of a tragic end. This picture is foreboding, as he dies a few months after painting it. The museum has two other works by the artist, Arquitectura urbana (Portería) from 1929 and Jóvenes y un pescador (1936).
The exhibition consists of pieces produced by the artist that still remain, collected by curator Rafael Inglada. Among the exhibited works, those that stand out, besides the ones already mentioned, are: the panel El descanso (El sueño), created between 1930 and 1931 for the Cinema-Theatre Fígaro in Madrid and El ensueño de la hija del guarda (1930).
Ponce de León began his artistic career at the School of Fine Arts in San Fernando, where he met Salvador Dalí, Maruja Mallo and Margarita Manso, who later becomes his wife. Among his circle of friends are Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel and painters Enrique Climent and James Ontañón. In 1929 he participates in the first Salón de Artistas Independientes of which he was one of the mobilisers. A year later he travels to Paris where he meets Pablo Picasso and other painters associated with the School of Paris like Francisco Bores and Manuel Ángeles Ortiz. Around this time his work begins to become known even outside of Spain and exhibitions follow.
His first solo show is held at the Centro de Exposición e Información de la Construcción in Madrid in 1935 -the only one during his career- which exhibits about a dozen of his works from 1927 to that date. In 1936 he participates for the last time in the National Fine Arts Exhibition held at the Palacios del Retiro, with his pieces Accidente, which at that time is titled Autorretrato. Due to his falangist activity he is arrested and murdered a few months later.
His pieces are related to Magic Realism, influenced by Franz Roh's 1927 book published by Revista de Occidente under the title Post-expresionismo. Realismo mágico. This spirit is manifested in other paintings, De Andalucía (1930), recovered shortly before this exhibition.
The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition attempts to compensate for the lack of or inaccurate information about the artist and his work. It includes unedited or recently seen pieces as well as photographs of Ponce de León and his wife, also a painter. Along with literature sources an explanation of all his work is included, even those that are missing. Both the exhibition and the catalogue work to shed light on this important figure in Spanish Contemporary Art.
Fundación Picasso, Málaga (August 20 - September 23, 2001); Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, Oviedo (September 27 - October 28, 2001)