Exploring the work of Antonio López Garcia

quince-lopez garciaAntonio López Garcia
(b Tomelloso, La Mancha, 6 Jan 1936)

My tutor, Simon Manfield mentioned that he has found the realist artist Antonio López Garcia a source of inspiration, so without turning this into a formal research project I’ve had a scout around the internet to see what I could learn. I hadn’t come across López before which makes me think my eyes can’t have been very wide open as he is described both as a “living legend” and “as much a household name in Spain as Lucian Freud or David Hockney is in the UK”.

Personally I am struck by Lopez’s pictures of the everyday and mundane, such as a his Sink and Mirror, New  Refrigerator and Doorway in Tomelloso. These stark images (pencil drawings and oils) are lifted up by a masterly use of light and seem to hint at  the lives of people…

I found myself spending a lot of time looking at one particular painting, Greek Head and Blue Dress, partly  because I had just painted a ‘greek head’ for my assignment but more because of the ‘moment in time’ nature of the still life. I’ve struggled a lot with setting up a good still life and would not have thought about including a dress  (the translucency is wonderful and whose dress is it?) on a hanger. It strikes me  that a still life gains something in meaning and message when it has the appearance of not having been arranged but being real. It becomes a trigger for our imaginations.

It feels like this ‘moment in time’ quality (as if something may have just happened or be about to) exists throughout López’s work and it is very compelling.

I found two articles that were particularly interesting perspectives on López and have pulled out some key extracts here. I’ve added links to images as I think  copyright  rules mean that I should not publish them directly to my blog.

Five Days Painting with Antonio López Garcia by Zoe Bray – The Florence Academy of art

Bray sums up López as follows:

“López stands out for his sensitive depictions of the prosaic and the familiar. The detailed yet wholly harmonious paintings of the Gran Via, Madrid’s “high street” –executed in the 1960s, are some of his most famous works. Much of the high regard for his art is due to his uncompromising and painstaking study of his subjects. He is known for spending years to finish one small canvas. This, together with his brilliant rendering of the subtlety of light, means that López is considered today’s torch bearer in the lineage of Spanish naturalist painters, with Velazquez its historical head. His approach to painting was famously evoked in the film ‘El Sol del Membrillo’ (You Tube excerpt), where he is shown spending seemingly never ending time painting quinces hanging from their tree in his garden, come rain or shine

Bray had the opportunity, together with 29 other painters, to take part in a five-day painting course the artist hosted at the University of Navarra in Pamploma in 2010. This was a rare opportunity as López no longer officially teaches but devotes his life to his art.

Bray says this was an enormous privilege but those who hoped to discover López’s painting technique were in for a disappointment. “Of course, Lopez has a technique. He has his technique. And while he says he is happy to explain it to anybody who is interested, he is so adamant that each artist finds his or her own technique that it is a struggle to get him to go beyond an insistence on the importance of finding your own way…”.

But despite this insistence, Bray did gain some insight into the artist’s technique:

“I succeeded nonetheless in having him explain how he dealt with rendering perspective of large spaces and how he made sense of what he saw in nature on canvas. To measure distance and angles, he showed us how he held one end of a ruler to his cheekbone, and the other end with his other hand also holding a compass upright. To understand the effect of light on objects and how they related to the rest of the picture, he said he simply spent a limited amount of time painting in the same spot at the same time each day when the weather was more or less the same, for an innumerable amount of days, and even years. No photographs, no camera obscura, simply precise drawings directly from nature. When I mentioned squinting in order to discern contrast and better understand the whole scene, López dismissed it, saying ‘why do that, if we don’t normally look at the world in this way, wandering about squinting?!’ So if anything, the technique López will explain to you at length, is patience, eyes wide open.”


Words of wisdom from Antonio López García | Allison Malafronte, Artist Daily

(The article includes pictures of Lopez’s work.)

Malafronte says: “…the most insightful glimpse into García’s mind and process came through watching an interview conducted with him for the winter 2011 issue of Klein’s American Painting Video Magazine). García—who does not like the spotlight shining on him—seemed comfortable and at ease throughout the conversation, and he was candid and forthcoming with his thoughts. I learned a great deal from the questions asked and the responses he gave.”These are a few thought-provoking quotes from that interview:

“Learning from the past is very complicated. The past, for me, has been interpreted by the artists of the 20th century. And to me it seems that they give me the key to be able to paint my time. I want to paint my time. I don’t want to paint the 19th century or the 18th century or the 17th century. I want to paint everything that is my life, all of my experiences.”

“Living in a city like Madrid, the most interesting thing is the pulse of life. It’s not a city with a special level of culture, but you still see the people, the men, the women, the children, the sickness, the good, the bad. I want to get close to all that, and those are the motives of my paintings.”

“I believe that something else, the substance of your spirit, stays incorporated in the work. The work is made to transmit emotion. The starting point of the artist, if they are figurative, is the world. … The material with which you work is the objective world, but you incorporate some of your soul, and that is art.”

“I don’t give importance to technique. I condition everything so that the painting has spirit, in every way. If not, technique does not do me any good. I have done that: put in all the forms, ordered them in the best possible way, taken measurements. Everything was done correctly, but the painting ended without substance, vacant of emotion. And that, when I had that sensation, it seemed to me a complete failure, it seemed that technique wasn’t worth anything. Not that technique doesn’t have importance, but it’s like the word is the link to the ideas and nothing more. So you acquire technique, but then what do you do with it?”

“When my uncle taught me, painting came to me with great ease, with great ease. But this can be deceiving, because you can be very talented and have nothing to say.”


Biography of the artist from Oxford Art online
López García, Antonio
(b Tomelloso, La Mancha, 6 Jan 1936)

Spanish painter, draughtsman and sculptor. He lived in Madrid from 1949 and studied painting there from 1950 to 1955 at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. He came from a prosperous farming family and continued to reflect the cycles of nature in his work even after his move to the capital. His art evolved from primitivist and Surrealist influences to a strict realism that hinted at profound truths beyond surface appearances, for example in drawings such asRemainder from a Meal (1971; Baltimore, MD, Mus. A.) and in oil paintings such as Death Mask of César Vallejo (1962; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.). He also occasionally produced sculptures, which he sometimes worked on over a long period, including life-size human figures in painted wood (e.g. Man and Woman, 1968–86; see 1986 exh. cat., pp. 10–11), editioned bronzes of heads and figures, and bronze reliefs cast from plaster originals (e.g. the Apparition of the Little Brother, 1959–86; see 1986 exh. cat., p. 38). The classes in colour that he gave at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando from 1964 to 1969 had a strong impact on his students. In spite of the small production and consequently rare exhibitions dictated by his scrupulous methods, he continued to be regarded as an artist of international standing within the post-war movement of Spanish realism.



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