This Antonio Saura (Huesca, 1930 - Cuenca, 1998) exhibition, organised by the Musée Rath and Museum of Art and History in Geneva, is held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the presentation of Museo del Prado collections in Geneva in 1939.
Antonio Saura has been selected because of his personal and institutional ties to Geneva, with the Museum of Art and History acquiring the first of his two crucifixion pieces in 1969. He was also the focus of an extensive exhibition in Madrid and Barcelona in 1980, but on this occasion the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is showing his works from the last ten years, among the most fertile in his corpus of work, in particular his large-scale pieces.
Saura's presence at the Venice Biennale in 1958, followed by Documenta in Kassel in 1959, consolidate his artistic career. During this period the artist forms part of the El Paso Group, together with Manuel Millares, Rafael Canogar and Luis Feito as his work represents the Spanish avant-garde in the second half of the Fifties and profoundly looks to create a new artistic language. Saura seeks to radically break away from dominant trends and the moderated modernity reflected by Daniel Vázquez Díaz and Benjamín Palencia.
The link to Spain's artistic traditions, from Francisco de Goya to Diego Velázquez, together with the violent break-up of culture, politics and art through Informalism, define the regenerative contribution of his painting. Saura's output works around themes that recur throughout his career, focusing on chromatism based on the use of blacks, greys and earth tones that he employs until the Sixties.
This exhibition displays seventy canvases from 1956 to 1985, although there are some chronological gaps, meaning that it is not a strictly anthological exhibition. Nevertheless, the exhibition aspires to consider the collection of works in terms of the most recognisable themes in Saura's work, executed on large-scale canvases: Damas, Crucifixiones, Perros (o Retratos Imaginarios) de Goya and Multitudes.
Within the Damas pieces in the exhibition, prominent works include Brigitte (1958) and Portrait de la Duquesa de Alba (1959). Under the theme Multitudes there is Foule (1962), La Grande Foule (1963), Karl-Johann-Strasse (1985) and Diada (1978-79). In the section of Goya's imaginary portraits Retrato imaginario de Goya (1963) and El perro de Goya (1984) are displayed, and, finally, the Gran Crucifixión (1959).
These four reference points are strongly linked to other themes that persistently define the artist, for instance Sudarios (Shrouds), Desnudos (Nude Figures), Rompecabezas (Jigsaws), Montajes (Assembly) and Repeticiones (Repititions), which are not included in the exhibition. Nevertheless, Saura does assert that the themes in his work must be understood as genres from traditional painting - still-life, landscape, figurative - despite the restructuring of the new pictorial language he creates as he constructs his works as archetypes.
Musée Rath and Musée d'art et d'historie, Geneva (June 16 - September 17, 1989); IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia (September 27 - November 26, 1989); Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (April 4 - June 4, 1990)