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Antonio Saura

Memory and Recollection

July 22, 2003 – January 11, 2004

For the first time and within their artistic context, this presentation shows the works of Antonio Saura recently acquired by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. These pieces are exhibited next to other figures from the Spanish Informalism movement, as well as representatives of American Abstract Expressionism.

Born in Huesca in 1930, Antonio Saura lived with his family in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona. From an early age he accompanied his father on visits to the Prado Museum where he was deeply impressed by the Cristo crucificado (1632) by Diego Velázquez and the Perro semihundido (1821—23) by Francisco de Goya, which would have a strong influence on the themes of his future work. Self-taught, he began to paint and write in 1947 while convalescing from a long illness. Between 1948 and 1950 he created the series Constellations (Constelaciones) in which there is a clear influence of the paintings of Miró of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the artistic conception of Surrealism, around the figure of André Breton. Between 1953 and 1955, he lived in Paris where, initially, he took part in the activities of the surrealist group led by Breton, and later on he become acquainted with French Informalism (the so-called Art Autre), and American painting.

In 1957 he founded the El Paso group in Madrid. which he led until it broke up in 1960. The group's manifesto expressed the wish to create a new pictorial language within the context of the European Avant-Garde movements of that time. Those years saw the development of Spanish Informalism, in which the El Paso group and virtually all the artists of the Catalonian group Dau al Set (of which Antoni Tàpies was a leading member) took part.

The purchase of two works by Antonio Saura, Crucifixión and Karl Johann II, together with the donation of two works on paper, 24 Heads (24 cabezas) and Imaginary Portrait of Goya (Retrato imaginario de Goya), represent major themes from the oeuvre of this artist. The presentation of these acquisitions, which span different periods of his career as an artist, will provide a detailed look at the work of Antonio Saura and will include two pieces belonging to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York.

Saura's work will be presented next to that of leading figures from the Spanish Informalism movement such as Antoni Tàpies and representatives of American Abstract Expressionism such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still or Robert Motherwell, a movement which is extensively represented in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection.

Antonio Saura

Crucifixion (Crucifixión), 1959–63

Oil on canvas

148,5 x 171 x 4 cm

Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa

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