A new exhibition, Fernando Zóbel: The 1970s, is an important highlight of this year’s Art Fair Philippines. Put together by a Spanish team of experts, it shines a bright light—and for the first time in Manila—on a side of Fernando Zóbel that is better known and loved in Madrid. The show is open for viewing at León Gallery International until April 1.
Put together by Madrid-based curator Adolfo Cayón, it features 11 stunning paintings created in the last, but also one of the most fertile, periods of Zóbel’s life. “You have to remember that Zóbel was in his 50s at the time—and in his prime,” says Adolfo. The artworks are thus “more personal, more free.”
“Contrary to commonly held belief,” he stresses, “the ‘70s were years of heightened artistic exploration for Fernando Zóbel. During this decade of imaginative abundance, Zóbel would create uninterruptedly, three of his six series. They are El Jucar, La Vista, and the highly acclaimed Serie Blanca which emerged from the former two. Eventually, they would represent, in simplified structure and schematic terms and as preferred by Zóbel himself, his entire pictorial body of work.”
The eloquent canvases include the wonderful Estudio Sobre Baschenis (Study about Baschenis), which takes as its starting point, Boy with a Basket of Bread by the Baroque artist Evaristo Baschenis, and embellished with Zóbel’s own detailed notes to himself.
Pequeño Homenaje a Stravinsky (A Little Homage to Stravinsky) is based on a theme by Rembrandt, his etching Le Paysage a la Tour. Zóbel began this depiction in Madrid and completed it in his beloved Cuenca. It captures the mood of a stony landscape that seems to travel up and down a musical scale.
El Triunfo del Cesar (The Triumph of Caesar) refers to the monumental series by the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna. In the transparent, almost ghostly script, Zóbel playfully includes the writing borne aloft by the bearers of the imperial standard and siege equipment.
‘What is it that really interests me?’ he once asked himself, ‘Finding out makes the history a painting’
There is also La Vista XXXI, whose series was “based on the view through my window” according to Zóbel. “What is it that really interests me?” he once asked himself. “Finding out makes the history a painting.”
The various pieces were delicately created with the light touch of an authentic master; graphite drawings, always an important structural element in Zóbel’s works, are in these works “almost always hidden, acts as the scaffolding for the work, invisible yet essential,” as he himself would write.
All the art featured are to be included in the forthcoming Zóbel catalogue raisoneé by Alfonso de la Torre and Rafael Perez-Madero.
Not by accident, this landmark show is also subtitled A Homage to Rafael Perez-Madero, who was considered Fernando Zóbel’s “right-hand man and advisor, as well as a flawless critic of his work,” said Cayón. He credits Perez-Madero, with the assistance of Georgina and Alejandro Padilla, heirs to Fernando Zóbel’s estate, with the magnificent stewardship of Zóbel’s legacy and the “highly merited reputation it enjoys today.”
Equally important is a comprehensive curatorial essay by Juan Manuel Bonet, widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on Spanish art in the 20th century. Bonet’s string of accomplishments includes his directorship at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
This year, Zóbel will be celebrated at no less than the Prado Museum in Madrid, alongside an exhibition on Pablo Picasso and El Greco
This year, Zóbel will be celebrated at no less than the Prado Museum in Madrid, alongside an exhibition on Pablo Picasso and El Greco. Entitled Fernando Zóbel and the History of Art, the exhibit will run from November 15, 2022 to March 5, 2023, and will feature a dialogue of the author’s sketchbooks “in which, starting from the classic copy, he ends up building his own abstract imaginary.”
León Gallery International is located at G/F Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas, Legazpi Village, Makati. Viewing hours are from 9 am to 6 pm; Mondays to Sundays. For inquiries, please text tel. no. (0998) 517-2010 or email [email protected].