Born on October 31, 1929, in Madrid, Luis Feito began his formal training at the Escuela superior de bellas artes de San Fernando (now Real academia de bellas artes de San Fernando), Madrid, in 1950. He worked briefly in a figurative style before he discovered Cubism, but in 1954 the Galería Buchholz, Madrid, presented his first solo show of nonfigurative works. Thereafter, Feito remained committed to painting in an abstract mode.
In 1953 Feito traveled to Paris on a grant from the French government. After an exhibition at the Galerie Arnaud in 1955, he left his teaching position at the Escuela superior de bellas artes de San Fernando and relocated to Paris, where he resided for nearly 25 years. While in Paris, he had the opportunity to view work by his international contemporaries—Jean Fautrier, Hans Hartung, Serge Poliakoff, and Mark Rothko particularly interested him—and became acquainted with several Art Informel artists. He was also introduced to automatism and began to incorporate other materials, most notably sand, into his paintings.
Feito nonetheless maintained close contact with the Spanish avant-garde and was a founding member of the Madrid-based group El Paso (1957–60), which emphasized an antiacademic, morally and socially responsible, innovative art for Spain. El Paso’s manifesto articulated the group’s aim to create a new spiritual state in Spanish art, recognizing the necessity to take action in the wake of a devastating civil war.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Feito’s work can be characterized by a subdued, colorless palette, contrasting blacks, grays, whites, and ochers. He later introduced red into his compositions as a counterpoint, and then as the primary color in many compositions. His work from this period also exhibits his interest in materiality through his overlapping of smooth and encrusted surfaces, which he accomplished by using sand and heavy impasto. In 1963 his work tended toward an increased formal and material simplicity in which circular forms predominated, reflecting his interest in Japanese art. Throughout his career Feito has continually explored relationships among surface textures, light, color, and form. Because of his preoccupation with light, many critics have ascribed an element of mysticism to his work. In 1981 he moved to Montreal and then to New York in 1983, where he continued to live and work until the early 1990s.
Early notable international group exhibitions include the Venice Biennale (1956, 1958, 1960, 1968); So Paulo Biennial (1957, 1963); Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1959); Paris Biennial (1959); Guggenheim Museum (1960); Tate Gallery, London (1962); and Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh (1962). Retrospectives include those at the Galerie Arnaud, Paris (1961); Hamburg Museum, West Germany (1964); Musée d’art contemporain, Montreal (1968); and Museo espaol de arte contemporáneo (now Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofía), Madrid (1998). After his election to the Real academia de bellas artes de San Fernando in 1998, Reina Sofía organized a traveling retrospective (2002). He was named Officer (1985) and Knight Commander (1993) of the Ordre des arts et letters de France. He received the international grand prize from the Asociación Espaola de Críticos de Arte (AECA) at the art fair Arco, Madrid (2002). Feito lives and works in Madrid.