This exhibition is the public presentation of sixty-one works by Antonio Saura (Huesca, 1930 - Cuenca, 1998), thirty-eight drawings and twenty-three paintings, loaned to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía by the heirs of Saura's work. The works journey through the whole of Saura's career, from his early surrealist pieces, a period that starts with Constelaciones (1948), to his final compositions, such as the oil painting Cuatro caras (1996), taking in the main themes running through his oeuvre in the process. This exhibit is in addition to Antonio Saura. Pinturas 1959-1985 (Antonio Saura. Paintings 1959-1985), held in the Museo in 1989.
From a very young age he showed a clear self-taught vocation for painting and literature as he begins to practice both forms in 1947 whilst recovering from a lengthy illness. Between 1953 and 1955 he resides in Paris, where he participates in the activities of the surrealists for a short time, thereafter developing a language associated with Abstract Expressionism.
In 1957 his first exhibition takes place in Paris as he also founds the 'El Paso' group, which he heads until its dissolution in 1960. The group is one of the first avant-garde movements in post-war Spain and introduces the premises of Informalism and Abstract Expressionism, now at their peak internationally. In the same year Saura participates, together with Eduardo Chillida and Antoni Tàpies, in the Venice Biennial, and it is in this period that Saura introduces figurative elements into his work, reducing his chromatic range to blacks, whites and greys and constructing figures with bold strokes of aggressive expression. In 1960 he leaves behind the exclusive use of black and white to focus on etchings and drawings for a period of time. Later, in the Seventies, he gains international recognition and exhibits in some of the biggest museums, which hold numerous retrospectives of his work, and he also receives the Guggenheim award. In the Eighties he returns to oil painting, and around the middle of the same decade he develops his colourist painting, continuing up until his death. Furthermore, Saura's literature also stands alongside his artwork.
From the beginning of the Fifties, Saura writes continually and in 1977 he begins to publish the writings on his work, which include his favourite themes and feature other artists as well as pamphlets, for instance the scathing text, published in 1982, titled Contra el Guernica (link to publication), which caused a veritable storm in the art world.