Sunday, April 20, 2014

Malharro, Martin

Las parvas (The stacks)
oil on canvas
67 x 88 cm
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Martin Malharro (1865-1911), born in the central Buenos Aires Province city of Azul, was an Argentine painter of the Post-impressionist school. He came from a well-to-do family, with lands in the Province of Buenos Aires. His artistic inclinations were apparent from early on and his childhood interest in painting led to domestic violence at home. At age fourteen, in 1879, given the unbending opposition of his father to his calling, he broke up both with his father and his past. He travelled to Buenos Aires where he worked to earn a living. To earn his daily bread, he designed cigarette labels, business cards, letterheads, etc.

He traveled to Santa Fe and Cordoba where he painted landscapes and his experience in the open air facing the massive Pampas laid the groundwork for his contact with Impressionism. His presentation at the National Atheneum in 1894, which consisted mainly of landscapes, was well received by critics. This relative success allowed him to travel to Paris in 1895 for study of art. Returning to Buenos Aires in 1901, he secured an exhibition in the following year. Conservative Argentine audiences, who still preferred Realist work, were won over by his art show, which popularized Impressionism in the then-remote South American nation.

His work took an increasingly Symbolist direction and away from earlier studies on wheat fields, a common subject among Impressionist artists in Argentina at the time. Malharro and other artists following the same trend became the first prominent Post-impressionists in Argentina, where they were known as the Nexus group. The sudden renown secured him a post in the prestigious University of La Plata as Dean of the School of Art, as well as in the National Fine Arts Academy.