The painting of Juan Manuel Díaz-Caneja (Palencia, 1905 - Madrid, 1988) has close ties to the landscapes of Castilla, portrayed from an acute awareness of avant-garde perspectives. After assimilating the teachings of Cubism, Díaz-Caneja formulates a new and intimate landscape through the use of persistent and subtle variations. To mark the hundredth anniversary since the artist's birth, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicates this restrospective exhibition to a broad range of Díaz-Caneja's finest works.
In 1923 he moves to Madrid to study architecture, and while studying drawing on Daniel Vázquez Díaz' studio is also influenced by Cubism. Towards 1927 he meets Benjamín Palencia and Alberto Sánchez, who much later would form the “School of Vallecas”, and takes part in their trips to the arid landscapes south of Madrid. Two years later, in 1929, he travels to Paris where he meets Picasso, Matisse and Braque. Through tones of dun and ochre, Díaz-Caneja's paintings in the Thirties reflect an interpretation of Cubism and Constructivism with a greater level of abstraction. In 1937 he becomes a member of the Communist Party and is later imprisoned for his involvement between 1948 and 1950. The practices of landscape in the immediate post-war period were his way of upholding a kind of artistic purity that was beyond any thematic or ideological influences that could tarnish the modern autonomy of painting. Consequently, his creative maturity earns him the 1958 Premio Nacional de Pintura (National Painting Award).
In the Sixties he almost exclusively focuses on landscape, though increasingly more as an autonomous space for the pure pictorial expression of a world reduced to the same, meagre elements: hills and foothills, continually reworked on the canvas. In 1962 he is awarded the Gold Medal in the National Exhibition of Fine Arts, and from the Seventies onwards his painting reaches its most succinct formal purity. Moreover, in the middle of the Eighties he incorporates certain corporeal aspects that acquire a kind of minimal eloquence. However, after that moment, until the end of his life, he composes a series of extremely joyous paintings, in terms of colour, and a type of impassioned rage in the execution that are free from any geometrical framework. Díaz-Caneja's painting is a fundamental part of 20th century Spanish art and he is awarded the Premio Nacional de las Artes Plásticas (National Prize for Plastic Arts) in 1980 and the Premio de las Artes (Arts Prize) of Castilla y León in 1984.
Palacio Municipal de Exposiciones. Kiosco Alfonso, A Coruña (8 September - 2 October, 2005)