This retrospective exhibition of Ramón Gaya (Huerto del Conde, 1910 - Valencia, 2005) takes place at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía on the occasion of the awarding of I Premio Velázquez 2002 to this painter and writer. Like other Spanish artists honoured by the Museo Reina Sofia -Jacinto Salvadó or Cristino de Vera- Gaya's work has transcended over the years thanks to the recovery of its historical importance that was not initially valued as much as it should have been.
His contact with the intellectual scene of the Twenties in Murcia, one of the main cultural references in Spain at the time, places him among the emerging artists of the moment: José Plans, Clemente Cantos, Luis Garay, Victorio Nicolás, Pedro Flores and Almela Costa. Also present in this environment are British painters Cristóbal Hall, William Tryon and Darsie Japp. The influence of his father, a lithographer by trade, and who provides him with a tolerant and open education is also crucial for the painter's artistic development.
However, Gaya’s personal and professional path would mean that he not only lived in Murcia, but also in London, Paris, Mexico, Rome, Venice, Florence, Barcelona and Valencia for shorter or longer periods. His early disappointment with avant-garde movements which he sees in the French capital, even after having exhibited together with Pedro Flores and Luis Garay in the gallery Aux Quatre Chemins, motivates the painter to concentrate on the work of classical authors outside of the "modern strategies." The Museo del Prado would become his true school taking as head artist Velázquez to whom he would dedicate some of his best-known writings.
This comprehensive retrospective, consisting of more than one hundred and fifty works, begins in 1927 with a portrait of Gaya’s father, still lifes and landscapes such as Ribadeo (1934), Luis Cernuda in Almeria (1934) and interiors of the Château de Cardesse from Cristóbal Hall.
Committed to the Republic, he collaborates in the La Barraca and actively participates in the town’s museum enrolled in the Educational Missions programme. He spends the Civil War in Valencia where he is part of the editorial board for the magazine Hora de España. This exhibition displays some of the publications that Gaya participated in, thereby recording his work as an illustrator and cartoonist. In 1937 he exhibits two of his pieces at the Spanish Pavilion in the International Exhibition of Paris to which the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicated a thematic exhibition in 1987.
These are difficult years for Gaya who loses his wife in the bombing of Figueras. During the Forties he made numerous gouaches inspired by classic painters, such as Homenaje a Velázquez, II Homenaje a Rembrandt and II Homenaje a Constable, all from 1948. Exhibited next to these paintings is his version of The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens. In the Fifties Gaya paints cities such as Paris, Rome or Florence. Some paintings such as Notre-Dame (1952); Tramonto a Venezia (1953); Puente de Saint Michel (1953); El Arno (1956); El Foro con lluvia (1956) and Il Palatino (1958) are exhibited. During the Seventies there are some tributes to figures like Mozart, Tiziano, Fattori, Constable or Rembrandt. Highlights of this time are: Retrato de José Bergamín (1961) and drawings taken from a notebook from 1968 and 1969 representing anonymous characters such as Cantaora, Bailaora o La florista de la Rambla.
During the following decades he continues his tributes to great artists, accompanied with their inspiring cities, especially Venice. From 1994 his paintings simplify in composition and colour doing away with trifles and details.
To his contribution to Spanish painting a number of very interesting articles published in various media are added, they are gathered in four volumes as an Obra Completa (Complete Works) by the publishing house Pre-Textos.