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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Eugenio Granell

The Pleasure of Bathing, 1943, Eugenio Granell.
Eugenio Granell Self-portrait, 1944.
As one accustomed to researching and writing about art, it's not at all uncommon for me to encounter artists touted as having been the first to produce a type of work, or do this, that, or some other often not particularly outstanding accomplishment. What is a good deal more uncommon is to come upon an artist listed as being the last of a certain breed. Of course, that's something of a risky designation in that there's always the possibility someone else will come along, take up the calling, and thus garner the crown as having become the NEW last. However, in the case of Spanish artist, Eugenio Granell, who died in 2001, I think his claim to fame is relatively safe.

The Ceremony of the Tribal Lamp, 1996, Eugenio Granell.
Break in the Clouds, 1940,
Eugenio Granell
(one of his first paintings).
If you were expecting to see Daliesque images, forget it. Eugenio Granell was no Salvador Dali, though they were contemporaries and I would imagine Granell admired Dali's work (who doesn't?). My guess is that Granell has won his "last" designation by the simple expediency of having outlived Dali, Miro, Ernst, Man Ray, Duchamp, and all the others. He was 89 when he died. In terms of style, there are the recognizable Surrealist motifs, but quite often Granell's work looks far more like that of Picasso than that of any of his colleagues in the Surrealist movement. His Ceremony of the Tribal Lamp (above), painted in 1996, near then end of his working career, bears a strong resemblance to that of Granell's more famous Spanish compatriot. His Pleasure of Bathing (top) painted back in 1943, shortly after his discovery of his painting interests, is considerably more in line with traditional Surrealist images. Surrealism would appear to have worn thin and worn off as he grew older.

Metaforia, 1957, Eugenio Granell--Picasso-esque Surrealism.
Iron Age Horse, 1990, Eugenio Granell.
Eugenio Granell led a rough life. Born on the northeastern coast of Spain in 1912, the fact that Granell survived all the other Surrealists is no small achievement. Originally he was a musician, writer, and left-wing political activist, which got him in considerable hot water as Francisco Franco rose to power in the Spanish pre-civil war days of the early 1930s. For those not well-versed in Spanish politics, Franco was a Fascist, Granell was a Marxist Communist; although in later years politics took a back seat to painting as he was forced to flee Spain to France, followed by Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and finally, New York. There he met and fell in with a number of other French and Spanish refugee artist such as Marcel Duchamp, José Vela Zanetti, and Josep Gausachs.

Nadja Finery, 1950, Eugenio Granell--a Surrealist fashion show?
Franco won the civil war and came to power as dictator of Spain in 1939 where he ruled with something of an iron fist until his death in 1975. From 1955 through 1985, Granell lived in Manhattan's Upper West Side, painting and teaching as a Professor of Spanish Literature at City University. After the return of democracy to Spain with the ascension of King Juan Carlos, Granell was able to return to his native homeland where he was honored with a host of awards, honors, and accolades. In 1995, he established the Fundación Granell in his hometown of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. The museum is advertised as the only one in the world devoted solely to Surrealism. It contains works by Granell, of course (over 600), but also paintings and sculpture by much more well-know Surrealists such as Picabia, Duchamp, Man Ray, Breton, and others...but no Dali. Apparently Dali doesn't count, even though he has a museum in Florida (plus one to spare in Barcelona).

Fundación Granell,  Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.


1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting look at a not well known artist in the USA. His Foundation in Santiago, Spain, is worth visiting. Recently, his surrealist novel on the Spanish Civil War, "The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian" was published by City Lights. WORTH READING!!