Monday, April 21, 2014

Benito Quinquela Martin

Barcos a pleno sol (Boats in the full sun)
oil on canvas
other detail unknown
-Fair use-

Benito Quinquela Martin (1890-1977) was an Argentine painter born in La Boca, Buenos Aires. He is considered the port painter-par-excellence and one of the most popular Argentine painters. His paintings of port scenes show the activity, vigor and roughness of the daily life in the port of La Boca.

His birthday could not be determined precisely as he was abandoned on March 20, 1890 at an orphanage with a note that stated "This kid has been baptized, and his name is Benito Juan Martin". From his physical appearance, the nuns who found him deduced that he should be around twenty days old; thus March 1 is regarded as his birthday. Adopted when he was seven years old, he assumed his stepfather's surname Quinquela.

At the age of 14 he attended a modest night school of drawing in La Boca while working during day on the family's coal-yard. When he became 17 years old he joined a local conservatory, where he stayed until 1912. By 1910 he had started appearing small art exhibitions, mainly in and around La Boca. In 1920, he obtained the second prize on the Salon Nacional. In the same year, he was sent as the Argentine representative to an exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil attended by local personalities including Brazilian president. By the 1920s,  Marcelo T. de Alvear, President of Argentina from 1922 to 1928, and his wife were very fond of Quinquela Martin's works, and this admiration led to a lasting friendship. In 1922, he was assigned as chancellor of the Argentine Madrid Consulate in Spain. In 1925 he set sail for France because - in his own words - "My trip to France is owed to President Alvear, who liked my works and wanted them to be judged by Paris". In 1927, he left for New York City for his exhibition. Before returning to Buenos Aires, he was invited to Havana to exhibit there. In 1929, on a trip to Italy, he made an exhibition in Rome. He made his last trip in 1930, to London for exhibition.. Back in his homeland, he became a philanthropist and donated several works to La Boca and the city of Buenos Aires. He bought the lands and donated the money to build a school and a museum for a cultural center.

He died in Buenos Aires, of heart complications and was buried in a coffin painted by him the previous year, stating that "Que quien vivio rodeado de color no puede ser enterrado en una caja lisa", meaning "He who lived surrounded by colors cannot be buried in a flat box." On the cover of the coffin was a painting of the port of La Boca.