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An interview with Ignacio Chillida Belzunce and Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Miranda | Alfonso de la Torre

An interview with Ignacio Chillida Belzunce and Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Miranda

by Alfonso de la Torre

 

The image of the artist nowadays

Alfonso de la Torre [AT]:

When I consider certain artists who are no longer with us, hoping to know more about them I turn to their closest family members; often their children. Yet, at times I come to the realization that despite the importance of these personal narratives I am more deeply moved by their re-creation in those who did not know the artist personally; in other words, those family members or loved ones who, not having had close contact with the artist, must rely on the recollections and narratives of others, as well as books, correspondence, and archived material, in order to reconstruct their own images of the artist. A case in point, which I’ve cited elsewhere, is that of Coro Millares, a girl born only a year before her father’s death. What might she think and feel about him, and how would she go about recreating his image?

I would ask each of you, what image comes to mind when you think about Fernando Zóbel (Fernando) or Eduardo Chillida (Ignacio) at this particular time, December 2018, just as we make the transition to a new year?

Ignacio Chillida Belzunce [IC]:

As the son of Eduardo Chillida, and having also been his collaborator for many years, helping create much of his graphic work and even, after his passing in 2002, having handled the artistic direction of our Museo Chillida Leku, I think that more than the artistic side, which is our bread and butter, when I think of him it’s undoubtedly the personal side I really remember. I remember our childhood, the way he always had time to be with us, the sport—which was something we used to practise with him—the family trips and also when he took us to his studio to draw us. And lastly, I recall his painful illness, which since he was an exemplary individual he faced with really impressive bearing, full of humility and love. All in all Chillida was a great man in every respect and someone fundamental in the history of art.

Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Miranda [FZA]:

As one of his godsons and namesake, I feel a special affinity with my great uncle Fernando Zóbel. I remember my great uncle as a person who would always light up a room with his stories and his humor. He was amusing, inspiring, and generous in every way. He was always welcome company and everyone in our large family loved him. He was sorely missed with his sudden passing, which left a vacuum not only in our family but also in the art world of his time. He passed away when I was 24 years old and I was away at college in the US at the time. So my memories are from my teenage years and subsequently from the extensive research that I have personally done and the research that we continue to do at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines.

Zóbel had been asked in his younger years, before becoming an artist, to join the Ayala Corporation, the family company. He joked that this was of little interest and that he would be miserable if he was forced to do this. He did actually work in the company for a period of time but he soon made it clear that he would be much happier as an artist. I don’t think our family could fully understand or relate to this. For many family members, a career in the company was a privilege and a duty. So when he was subsequently allowed to retire from the company and move to Spain to become a fulltime artist in 1960, he was ecstatic and relieved. But even when he was no longer working for the family business, he provided his own unique wisdom to family issues that needed to be resolved. Although I was quite young, I remember stories from my parents about how he continued to care deeply about our family and the family’s long history in business.

I also remember how he loved to draw. At any opportunity, he would sketch and draw caricatures on a napkin or a random piece of paper. When we were lucky enough to visit his studio, he would patiently allow us to open his storage drawers to view his caricatures, sketches, watercolors and paintings. He enjoyed being around young people and patiently answered all our questions. Besides the artworks, I was always fascinated by a little velvet bag with a couple of Greek and Roman coins that hung around his neck under his shirt and wondered what it meant. Looking back, I wish I had asked him about the coins.

At this particular time, December 2018, on the brink of a new year, I am delighted that his works continue to be relevant, remembered, collected, and celebrated.

Closely related figures

AT: My first impressions were that some coincidences existed between these two artists. Yet, after studying both of them more extensively, I have come to recognize numerous other parallelisms between them. Both artists moved away from their initial academic settings, perhaps the formal education their families had desired for them. For Zóbel, there would be studies in law or economics; for Chillida, architecture. Both artists left their native countries early in their careers. Chillida traveled to Paris in the 1950s; Zóbel moved to the United States and then to Spain, also in the same decade. Their common objective was to reflect, almost obsessively, on the act of creation, as well as on art history and literature. Both were deeply attuned to a Zen viewpoint and turned their eyes admiringly toward the East, drawn by the purity of the artistic material used there. Both artists also shared an admiration for and attachment to poetry. They were similarly contemplative in their approach to the creative act and valued the quieter painters, those who, like Morandi (we will refer later to Luis Fernández), took a meditative approach toward the history of art. Lastly, both Zóbel and Chillida were unusually interested in any publication relating to their work.

But this question has to do with the displacement I mentioned earlier. Would you agree that, in Zóbel and Chillida, we have two artists who began their artistic careers in relative isolation, as well as a difficult context, and thus experienced a personal displacement? (If I might add my own comment, I consider this experience essential to any artist).

IC: I’m totally in agreement with your final question in this section. He’d often repeat something he’d read in a verse by the French poet René Char, which went, “Il faut marcher le front contre la nuit” (“We must go with our forehead against the night”). He’d also add something he used to say to us kids, something his father had transmitted to him: “In life you have to keep your degree of dignity a notch above fear.” I think both things clearly demarcate and define the territory Chillida negotiated.

FZA: Zóbel is described as a transnational artist. He belonged to many cultures—Asian, American, and European—but he did not completely belong to any single culture, so he was always partly an outsider. He was born in Manila but his parents were Spanish. From birth, he had one foot in Asia and the other foot in Europe. He was Spanish/Filipino. Add to this his education in the United States. So he was acutely and profoundly aware of the conundrum of belonging and yet not belonging. I think this is why he was so preoccupied with searching for the Filipino identity and identifying what is Philippines art earlier in his career—he felt the need to belong to the artistic milieu of the land where he grew up. But after he moved to Spain, you can sense from his letters that he also felt completely at home. He could free himself from the obsession with personal identity, and focus instead on more philosophical questions and artistic expressions.

Yes, of course you are correct that some kind of isolation or introspection is essential to an artist. In Zóbel’s case, as mentioned earlier, he spent most of his life feeling “displaced” and searching for his identity. You might say that he was in some sort of diaspora his whole life. He has written about his sense of isolation in some of his correspondence. There is a particularly moving passage in a letter
to his friend Eric Pfeufer in 1957 where he writes, “the artist communicates from a point of loneliness, and his thought is received in loneliness.” He also searched deeply for his own artistic style and finally found it. I sensed that he could not get guidance from our family. The inspiration came from his own unique experiences, the countries that he visited, his studies, his visits to museums, the art he saw and the artists he interacted with.

A true friendship

AT: Following on from what we’ve just discussed, we know that both artists engaged in a mutual sharing of knowledge, which I believe is the characteristic of true friendships. Zóbel introduced Chillida to Eastern literature, to the work of Lin Yutang, among that of other writers. “I must have some Chinese element in my body,” said the Basque artist in response to Zóbel, who (we know) had given him a Chinese seal. The event is well documented, and Zóbel repeated this practice of making seals for other artists, including Manuel Rivera, whose seal I have actually seen.

And it was through Chillida, on the other hand, that Zóbel became acquainted with the Asturian painter Luis Fernández. Zóbel and Chillida spoke at length, especially during their extensive meetings in 1964, during the incorporation of Abesti Gogorra IV (Rough Chant IV) (1964) into the Museo de Arte Abstracto. They discussed the art of their time and talked about the vicissitudes of their respective careers. Lastly, both ventured into Zen, in search of that vigour which arises from a lightness of being.

I believe this open exchange of ideas, unhindered by internal complexes, is what defines true friendship. What would your opinion be on this?

IC: As the letters Fernando Zóbel sent to Chillida between 1964 and 1979 clearly demonstrate, and adding to this all the information you’re gleaning on your side, it’s obvious that an enormous affinity and friendship existed. During the meetings they held for the creation of the Museo de Arte Abstracto, in which other artist friends of theirs participated, this friendship would have undoubtedly become stronger, if anything. Meaning this in-depth investigation, above all on your part, which does no more than corroborate this closeness and friendship, is to be welcomed.

FZA: A meeting of like minds always provides fertile ground for deep friendships. Zóbel had an inquisitive and contemplative mind. He cherished intellectual companionship whether he was in Manila, Cambridge, Madrid, or Cuenca. A couple of years ago at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines, I had an illuminating conversation with his very close friend, the abstract artist Arturo Luz (now a National Artist in the Philippines). Arturo recalled how they were such close friends that they saw each other almost every day for ten years when Zóbel lived in the Philippines. They spent hours in each other’s studio, talking about art, reading, or painting. So it is not surprising that Zóbel formed a strong friendship with Chillida, whose interests and artistic journey paralleled his own in many ways. I suppose they recognized a little bit of themselves in each other. Most importantly, and as you mentioned, they had no internal conflicts and therefore precluded any petty insecurities or professional rivalry. Zóbel’s world was a world of intellectual stimulation, books, poetry, art, and art history. Even his artworks were cerebral conversations with past poets or artists, especially hisHomenaje (Homage) series. One of our most exciting Zóbel acquisitions at the Ayala Museum is Cuatro lineas (Four Lines) (1972), which is a visual conversation with the Chinese poet Wang Wei.

Zóbel admired the beautifully controlled strokes of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and you can see this in his works. He took many trips to Japan and I recall that his house and studio in Manila overlooked a Japanese garden which is so important in Zen meditation. He loved the minimalism and serenity of the garden with neatly raked sand and pebbles, and a perfectly positioned rock in a corner. His studio also manifested a Zen aesthetic. I remember his studio was always impeccable. It was painted all white, including the floors. All his studios looked the same whether it was in Manila, Madrid, or Cuenca. All in white, with brushes, rulers and other tools perfectly arranged on the wall and on the table. Nothing was ever out of place. He seemed to be such a perfectionist, working in a white environment with no distractions. As kids we were fascinated with the way he would use a syringe to paint long straight lines and how he would then use a brush to spread some of the paint and create such unique gestures. Like Zóbel, Chillida was interested in Eastern literature and artistic experimentation. So, yes, I think their meeting of minds and open exchange of ideas were the basis of Zóbel’s and Chillida’s friendship.

Admiration

AT: It is obvious from Zóbel’s writings that he felt an absolute admiration for Chillida, whom he believed was already, by 1972, one of the most exceptional sculptors in Spain and around the world. That year, Zóbel returned to view Chillida’s exhibit in the Galería Iolas-Velasco a second time on the same day. It was a display of dazzling work, evident to us today from the existing catalogue.

Zóbel expressed this level of enduring admiration for only a handful of artists in our ambit: Palazuelo and Millares come to mind. He started collecting Chillida’s work in 1964 when he was first exposed to it at the Galería Juana Mordó in Madrid. There he purchased Mármol incrustación plomo (Marble with Lead Inlay) (1964), the first three-dimensional work he bought, which is now in the Museo de Arte Abstracto, which Zóbel himself published in a gorgeous reproduction in 1975.

By some mysterious coincidence, it was at the Mordó gallery that the work of Zóbel and Chillida first met. Chillida’s sculpture Hierros de temblor III (Trembling Irons III) (1957) was positioned just below one of Zóbel’s paintings, Luminosa (Luminous) (1963).

One of the most beautiful narratives I’ve read from those years relates to the incorporation of Chillida’s major sculpture Abesti Gogorra IV into the collection of the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca. “Our Chillida has arrived. Magnificent!” Zóbel writes in his passionate voice. The sculpture has presided over the museum entrance ever since.

This question is actually for Ignacio. How do you think Chillida perceived Zóbel’s work?

IC: It is precisely on this point, and in view of your investigation of the documents you’ve had access to, that we on our side are able to learn of the words of appreciation Fernando Zóbel wrote about our father, which results in a feeling of pleasure and affection towards his person. I’m certain that on the part of Chillida those same feelings certainly existed. And that’s why he was interested in participating with Zóbel and all the others on the great project of creating the Museo de Arte Abstracto. I will add, moreover, that the work chosen to that end is a piece that is very special and absolutely fundamental within his artistic career.

An artists’s responsibility to the public

AT: I consider both of these artists to be more than mere creators of artistic forms; in other words, they were more than artists. Of course, they were extraordinary artists in Spain and in their time, but they were also major art collectors and held extraordinary views about art in public places. On the one hand, Zóbel founded the museum in Cuenca, while Chillida pondered constantly on the ways he might integrate his work into communal spaces where they could be shared by the general public. In 1965, Zóbel’s real interest in this public role of art revealed itself in a beautiful gesture, when he donated a drawing by Chillida to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. Not too long after that, perhaps in an act of reciprocity, Chillida (in agreement with Gustavo Gili) also donated some printing plates, corresponding to aquatints II and IV of his Inguru (Around) album, to the Museo de Arte Abstracto. He had been named Honorary Curator of the museum in 1967.

In due course, if events unfold as they should, we may find ourselves with two artist-founders of major museums in our time: the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca and the Chillida Leku.

What do each of you think about the relation between a work of art and the public?

IC: With regard to the public, as you indeed mention, a common interest existed on the part of the both of them that is shown not only in their words but also in their deeds. An example of this are the two museums you refer to and the public artworks they created. For Chillida in particular it was a really fundamental issue, which he explained very succinctly in one of his aphorisms: “What is one’s is almost no one’s.” He preferred to make a single work and in this way to multiply the number of owners—for Chillida, that was the meaning of the public artwork.

FZA: I suppose one could argue that art is meaningless without an interested and supportive viewing public. Audience development is something that Zóbel seriously considered. This is one of the reasons we built the new Ayala Museum in a central business district in Manila rather than in isolation—to make art and culture easily accessible to the general public. Of course, Zóbel understood this relationship between art and the public very well, hence his passion for collecting and exhibiting not only his works but also those of other artists he admired. It is interesting how he describes his efforts at developing Manila audiences in a letter to artist Lee Aguinaldo in 1962: he notes how artists must create not only the paintings but also cultivate the people that go to see them.

Probably because he was so articulate and well read, Zóbel became a key figure and de facto spokesperson for the modern art movement in the Philippines. He combined talk with action by purchasing the works of young Filipino artists to support their careers and to generate a public for modern art. To ensure public access to the works, he donated his collection to the Ateneo de Manila University, helping them establish the Ateneo Art Gallery, which is now recognized as the first museum of Philippine modern art. As you know, he also founded the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca which I believe was the first museum of modern art in Spain. And in 1967, the Ayala Museum was established in the Philippines, also inspired by Zóbel’s commitment to Philippine arts and culture.

Zóbel: a complex figure

AT: Now I will turn my attention to Zóbel, whose complexity of character, I believe, has led to his being seen and recalled through a variety of lenses, making him difficult to embrace. He eludes simple and clear classification and thus has been misread on occasion, precisely because of his many diverse facets. In writing about him in the past, I have remarked on the intensity of his life, the urgency with which he moved from painting to drawing, from contemporary to classic art, from museums to exhibits; friendships, travels, lectures, collections, always observing and interpreting the world around him. How difficult it is, therefore, to sift through that intense activity today, using our current language, and to appraise the way it led to the fulfillment of his life in barely three decades. It was the life not only of an artist, but also of a prolific writer: over twenty diaries and approximately one hundred notebooks filled with annotations, sketches, drawings, collages, clippings, and more. Additionally, throughout his life Zóbel kept a meticulous record of all of his works. Oh, and he painted, of course! Would you agree that this complexity makes any analysis of Zóbel’s life all the more challenging?

FZA: Yes, definitely. Here is a brilliant man fated to pursue a short, intense artistic career spanning three continents in three decades. But he had so many interests aside from art. He loved history, archaeology, architecture, ceramics, stamps, coins, and other collectibles. During conversations that I recall, he seemed to know about everything and always had an important point to add, and always with a sense of humour. I suppose the downside to his multiple talents is the difficulty for others to reduce him to one convenient category. Is he a Spanish artist or a Filipino artist? He identified with both nations and exhibited locally and internationally with both sets of artists. Is he a painter or a printmaker or a writer? Is he an artist or a scholar, or a collector, or a benefactor, or all of the above? I think the latter posed a specially difficult challenge for him, and made him work harder to gain genuine acceptance as an individual and as an artist.

Perhaps if he were not as multi-dimensional in his business and artistic career, his very real artistic achievements would be magnified rather than blurred by his other accomplishments. In this respect, a coincidental parallel with a close friend, Filipino-American artist Alfonso Ossorio, is striking. Ossorio, not unlike Zóbel, tends to be remembered as the benefactor of the American artist Jackson Pollock, rather than as an important artist of his generation. But this is beginning to change also. Similarly, it is heartwarming to know that there is a resurgence of interest in Zóbel’s art in Asia, Europe, and the US.

Friends forever

AT: On 24 May 1964 both artists were in Cuenca. Chillida and his wife had arrived at the city known for its “Hanging Houses” as guests of Antonio Saura. Zóbel’s objective, at this particular time, was the purchase of a significant sculpture for the Museo de Arte Abstracto. I can imagine these two artists—both born in 1924, both users of monogrammatic signatures in their works—engaging in long conversations that first night and in successive days, and I wonder if during those exchanges they considered the possibility of their genealogies having crossed: between the Filipino ancestors of Pili Belzunce (Iloilo, Philippines, 1925 – San Sebastian, Spain, 2015) and the Torronteguis (Basque?) on the maternal side of Zóbel’s family.

I would venture to add that from the very beginning they might have had a sense of being longtime friends. What about you? How do you think their friendship developed?

IC: I suppose that in those first encounters in Cuenca things happened with complete naturalness and closeness, which is logical since they were both individuals with very similar approaches in the artistic as well as the personal and ethical sense. It’s certain that in those conversations all those things came up, things that in some way both you, Alfonso, as well as Fernando and myself are answering in this interview about the two of them. Obviously that personal encounter, which was surely intense and illuminating for both, meant that the closeness already existing between them went further and, as you say, with the sensation of an already experienced friendship.

FZA: Sometimes we meet people toward whom we feel naturally drawn, as though we had met and known them before. Perhaps this was the case with Chillida and Zóbel. I mentioned in reply to your previous question the factors that I think contributed to their friendship—their similarity of interests and their mutual respect and admiration for each other. I am not aware that there are any genealogical ties between Chillida and Zóbel, although it might be an interesting aspect to explore. In any case, Zóbel conscientiously cultivated and kept up a correspondence with his circle of friends in Manila, Boston, and Madrid. This was before the convenience of text messages and emails we have today. One of my great pleasures is to do personal research on Zóbel’s life, and as you mentioned earlier, to piece together those parts of his life with which I’m not as familiar. I think his letters reveal so much about his thought processes and artistic development. I am eager to learn more from these sources. I will soon have the opportunity to go through his letters at the Harvard library, for example, to understand the relationship between his intellectual exchanges with artist friends and the development of his art.

Chillida, a renowned artist

AT: When Zóbel arrived in Spain, close to 1960, Chillida was already an internationally established artist, in part—and of course between us—following his scholarship at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. His fame as an abstract sculptor in the 1950s was evident when he presented his work at the fabled Denise René exhibition (1954-1955), Premier Salon de la Sculpture Abstraite. And he would be acclaimed at competitions and exhibits in Milan (1954), Chicago (1957), and Venice (1958) during that same decade. I need not elaborate further, but I should add that by 1958, his sculptures had appeared in two major collective exhibitions: Sculptures and Drawings from Seven Sculptors at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture at the Carnegie Institute’s Museum of Art. At the 29th Venice Biennale in 1958 he was awarded the Grand Prize in Sculpture.

I have always shared Zóbel’s premise that the success of one artist represents the success of all art. Zóbel would celebrate enthusiastically—and personally—the worldwide recognition awarded to any artist. What is your view on this?

IC: It’s true Chillida met with recognition extraordinarily quickly and, like Zóbel, was delighted with the success a number of young Spanish artists achieved on the contemporary international scene, which was undoubtedly a boost for Spanish art as a whole and for its future development.

FZA: Zóbel’s kindness, humility, and generosity of spirit are well known among those who knew him personally. He had a brilliant and curious mind and an inherent thirst for knowledge. He was always studying, learning, experimenting. Far from being envious, he celebrated other people’s success and sought to learn from those he most admired. There is an anecdote in Philippine art circles about a group meeting of modernist painters at the Philippine Art Gallery where disgruntled rumblings were being aired about a certain painter’s (some thought perhaps undeserved) success. Instead of succumbing to the others’ negativity, Zóbel’s reaction was to rejoice saying, Isn’t one artist’s success, success for us all?

A powerful and beautiful biography

AT: Both artists have produced significant bibliographies, which include books of unusual consequence for their time. For example, in the case of Chillida, we find two books in Zóbel’s library dedicated by the sculptor: the monograph by Claude Esteban,3 and the very beautiful Los espacios de Chillida, with texts by Gabriel Celaya and photographs by Francesc Català-Roca.4

I’d also like to mention two monographs on Zóbel, his Cuaderno de apuntes (1974)5 and the stunning monograph Zóbel: La Serie Blanca(1978)6, which includes his indispensable dialogue with Rafael Pérez-Madero. These books, some of them in bilingual editions (English/Spanish), are impressive works, perhaps some of the most beautiful books on art produced in the 1970s. In addition, both artists, who were devoted to the art of drawing and to the paper itself, which faced a state of “gentle disrepute” (Zóbel), took it upon themselves to preserve these extraordinary editions of graphic art created with a great emphasis on excellence.

How would you describe the relation between the artists’ original work and the attention each of them gave to these related publications?

IC: I’ve had the good fortune to have worked, along with my wife Mónica, with Chillida in our print workshop for twenty-four years creating a large part of his graphic work, as well as a significant number of artist’s books. One thing Chillida was was to be extremely rigorous about what he was after. This is why before embarking on any new project we gave a lot of thought to how to approach it, as in any work, obviously, with the adventurous side being highly important and necessary at all times.

The artist’s books deserve a special mention. For him, and of course for all of us who worked on them, given that doing a book called for the participation of a large number of professionals, it was really complicated to obtain what was needed in just measure. He participated in them, logically, with a huge interest in the whole process. In actual fact that way of working was the same he utilized for everything he did, be it sculpture, printmaking or whatever, like his public artworks, for instance.

FZA: Zóbel studied literature and history at Harvard College, and worked as a curator at the Houghton Library. So he lived in a world of books. I imagine he must have conceived of his publications along the same lines and aesthetics as his original works. Yes, I agree that they include some of the most beautiful art books of the 1970s. Of course, he was not only a painter, he was a printmaker as well. He worked a lot with paper. His love of literature and bound volumes most likely factored into the conceptualization of related art books produced during his lifetime. Publications were clearly a part of his strategy for making his art accessible to the public. Art books make it possible for audiences to take home their experience after viewing the originals, to enjoy and meditate upon until the next gallery visit. Zóbel, the consummate perfectionist, must have collaborated on these publications with a clear plan and purpose. As he explained in a 1967 interview with Filipino artist and curator Ray Albano, the creative process cannot be conducted unless there is first a basic idea or plan, followed by the controlled elaboration of that idea. To my mind, his publications are part of the “controlled elaboration” of the basic idea of the original works.

Their legacy

T: For those of us who think and write about contemporary art, Zóbel and Chillida are essential artists. Their life and legacy have become a part of who we are. They also had a significant impact on those artists around them and on succeeding generations. It is my belief that they will continue to exert their influence well into the future, on artists yet to come. What are your views on this?

IC: Every legacy is important for future generations. There can be no doubt that both their oeuvres, their reflections and questions, are fundamental. One of our main objectives, to which we’ve been committed for many years, is the preservation of the legacy for those, as you rightly say, “who are to follow.”

As a conclusion to all your questions, I’d like to say that the precise period the two of them lived through, along with many other close friends, forms part of one of the greatest adventures in the art history of this country, and that is indeed a great legacy.

FZA: Zóbel’s impact on other artists was palpable during his lifetime. It is hard to imagine modernism in the Philippines without Zóbel’s critical role in shaping public tastes and supporting artists’ efforts through words and deeds. He also inspired his friends to become collectors themselves, sometimes by gifting them their first piece, or simply by example. It is rare to find a modern artist or critic who was active in the Philippines in the 1950s-1960s who was not influenced or touched in some way by Zóbel’s works, intellect, and generosity. He played his own unique role with artists in Spain. He was truly legendary and universally loved. It is a pity he was taken away from us so soon. Zóbel’s magnanimity in celebrating the success of each artist as the success of all artists is an example worth emulating and one that I hope future generations will follow. His passion for art and collecting is infectious and inspiring. I am always excited to discover his works and correspondences, which somehow bring me closer to him.

I am delighted and inspired by this thoughtful pairing of Chillida and Zóbel which demonstrates the many ways of viewing and interpreting their works. Like Chillida, Zóbel was an idealist and intellectual who was constantly in search of life’s essence and how best to express this truth in his works. Zóbel’s artistic journey took him from figurative representation
to various stages of abstraction. His untimely death sometimes makes people wonder what his later works would have been like, had he lived longer. A couple of years ago, we had this wonderful exhibition at the Ayala Museum called Journey into Space: The Visual Odyssey of Fernando Zobel which I visited with one of Zóbel’s best friends, Arturo Luz, whom I mentioned earlier. When he was asked this very question, Arturo simply replied: “I’ll tell you what, take all of the best paintings here, the ones I’ve been raving about, and triple that. Every day he was getting better and better. He was a great man, brilliant, that’s it.”

 


 

1 Ignacio Chillida Belzunce (Hernani, 1954) is the eldest son of the sculptor and director of the Work and Artist Department of the Museo Chillida Leku.

2 Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Miranda (Manila, 1960) is one of Fernando Zóbel’s great nephews and godson. He is co-chairman of the board of trustees of the Ayala Foundation.

3 ESTEBAN, Claude. Chillida. Paris: Maeght Éditeur, 1971. Zóbel’s Library. Fundación Juan March,

NB 813. C45 A4 1971. Signed copy, with dedication.

4 CELAYA, Gabriel.
Los espacios de Chillida. Barcelona: La Polígrafa, 1973. Photographs by Francesc Català-Roca. Biblioteca de Zóbel.FundaciónJuanMarch. NB 813.C45 A4 1973.

5 ZÓBEL DE AYALA, Fernando. Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la pintura y otras cosas. Colección de citas recogidas por Fernando Zóbel. Madrid: Galería Juana Mordó, Madrid, 1974. [Reissued in 2002 by the Fundación Juan March, Madrid].

6 PÉREZ-MADERO, Rafael; ZÓBEL DE AYALA, Fernando. Zóbel: La Serie Blanca. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela, 1978.

 

 

Published in Zóbel-Chillida. Criscrossing paths Barcelona, 2019. Mayoral p.55-71

 

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