I'm sure many of you are aware of the Spanish living legend Antonio López García, but I'm ashamed to say I was not familiar with his artwork until recently. And as with any new discovery, once you become aware of a new person, place, or thing, doesn't it suddenly seem to show up everywhere?
While in Florence this past fall, I saw an Antonio López García book on an artist's bookshelf, and then heard his name come up several times in conversation. I was very interested to learn who this artist was who seemed to have influenced so many European painters. When I got back to the States, I started to see García's name pop up more and more in commentary from today's painters, and I could now recognize the influence of his aesthetic in the paintings of a handful of artists whose work I admire.
Greek Head and Blue Dress by Antonio López García,
Right around that time, my editorial director was putting together June 2012 American Artist and decided to theme it "The Spanish Influence," so I asked if I could write about García. I wanted to do plenty of research, and I began by reading Antonio López García: Paintings and Sculpture in its entirety. What a wonderful experience it was to discover figure, landscape, and still life paintings that spoke so strongly to me, and then to read the story of what transpired during García's training and personal life to make him the artist he is today.
As inspiring as that book was to read, the most insightful glimpse into García's mind and process came through watching the interview that Michael Klein and Amaya Gurpide conducted with him for the winter 2011 issue of Klein's American Painting Video Magazine (APVM). 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.
View of Madrid From Martínez Campos by Antonio López García,
I want to share some of García's statements from that interview here, as I think his wisdom and perspective are extremely inspiring and timely. Here are some words worth pondering:
"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."
The Early Riser by Antonio López García,
Talking about his academic training and oil painting studies in Madrid at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando: "We were fascinated all the time by modernity, but at the same time we didn't stop painting and drawing. For four years, painting and drawing, painting and drawing. This is something very important: the familiarity you develop within the language of painting."
Speaking about seeing the work of Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, and others at the Prado while in art school but starting to feel more connected to a modern sensibility, Garcia says: "This was good for me. I think it had to be this way. One had to pass through the knowledge and through the experience of that painting to conquer the technique of the ancient painters."
"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?"
Grand Via by Antonio López García,
"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."