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Antonio Saura
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Huesca, Spain
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Cuenca, Spain
One of the leading Spanish artists during the last half of the 20th century, Antonio Saura published works of prose and poetry in addition to creating paintings, prints and sculptures. The winner of the Guggenheim International Award (1960) and the Carnegie Prize (1964), Saura’s works are part of the collections of many museums in America and Europe. Born in 1930 in Huesca in north-eastern Spain, not far from the French border, his father was a lawyer and his mother a musician. Saura began painting and writing in 1947 after having been bed-ridden since 1943 after contracting tuberculosis. A self-taught artist, his first exhibition was in 1950 in a bookshop in nearby Zaragoza. He self-published a poetic text in 1951, and exhibited his art at a bookshop in Madrid in 1952, the year of his first visit to Paris. Saura moved to Paris in 1953, living there for three years. While in Paris he became involved with the Surrealist artists active there, and began painting works generally based on faces and the female body, done in an abstract expressionist style. Saura participated in a three-artist exhibition in 1957 at the Galerie Rodolphe Stadler, where he would exhibit for the rest of his life. After Saura returned to Madrid that year, he co-founded the group “El Paso” (“The Step”) along with fellow artists Rafael Canogar (b. 1935), Luis Feito López (b. 1929) and Manolo Millares (1926-1972), which held exhibitions and published manifestos. He exhibited at the 1957 Venice Biennale. In 1959 the Galerie Stadler mounted his first solo show in Paris and Saura exhibited at Documenta 2 in Kassel, Germany. He began creating prints, which would become a major part of his work, in 1959 as well. The El Paso group participated in two group exhibitions in New York City, at the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim, before it disbanded in 1960, the year Saura began creating sculptures in metal, following his themes of faces, human figures and crucifixions. His first solo exhibition in New York City, at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, followed the next year. Retrospective exhibitions of his works were held in museums in Rotterdam, Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in 1963 and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam mounted a retrospective of his works on paper in 1964. He made his first trip to Havana in 1966 and spent most of 1970 in the Cuban capital. Saura moved to Paris in 1967 and participated actively in the opposition to the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco (1892-1975), but continued to spend summers in Cuenca, Spain, east of Madrid. From around 1968 Saura stopped oil painting for about ten years to concentrate on works on paper. A move to expel him from France in 1977 was defeated, and the French government named him a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1981 and an Officer of the Order in 1990. Saura exhibited widely in numerous museums in Europe and the Americas during the 1980s and 1990s, including retrospective exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1979 and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University in Cambridge in 1989. He published several books illustrated by his prints, published other writings, and with his brother produced the opera “Carmen” in Stuttgart in 1991. The City of Paris awarded him its Grand Prix des Arts in 1995. He died in Cuenca in 1998. (TNB 4/2014)