MANOLO MILLARES: A DELICIOUSLY STRANGE WORLD

MANOLO MILLARES: A DELICIOUSLY STRANGE WORLD

I am not afraid to say that much of what I do escapes my understanding. And I am not afraid of this because, in all truth, I do not feel a need to understand everything I paint […] I go about my work with total freedom, in a deliciously strange, disconcerting world; I make different textures collide; I populate the infinite spaces and torture them with a dynamic entanglement of strings.

Manolo Millares, 1958[1]

 

1956 and 1957 were fundamental years in the unfolding of Manolo Millares as an artist. In 1956, shortly after arriving in Madrid from his hometown, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, his work was shown at the XXVIII Biennale Internazionale d’Arte in Venice. At this time, he also began his series of compositions employing his notions of ‘texturas armónicas’ (harmonious textures) and the ‘dimensión perdida’ (missing dimension). These works marked the beginning of his in-depth investigation into matter, essentially stripped, leading the artist to his discovery of the possibilities of burlap through his first experiments of making holes in his canvases, often with the use of a blowtorch, creating hollow cavities that offered glimpses into the mysterious ‘other’ side, constituting authentic breaches through to the infinite.[2] From this moment onward, Millares set forth on a path of no return that would lead him to his destiny as a full-fledged artist (as we shall see, his career as an artist unfolded at a dizzying pace, over the course of fifteen years).[3] In the artist’s own words of 1956, ‘The unexpected mystery that awaits me in the missing dimension of a coarse burlap canvas finds a unique parallel in the obscure and unfathomable qualities of the unknown.’ He has clarified his use of the term ‘dimensión perdida’: ‘I do not admit the existence of a third visual, fictitious dimension; rather, I am acknowledging its authentic, material dimensionality. This is what I call the ‘missing dimension’, because its foundation is in reality itself and, consequently, it does not disrupt the frontalism of the museum’s wall.’[4] This is precisely the cycle of works to which the incredibly beautiful piece, Composición con dimensión perdida (Composition with Missing Dimension), 1956 (cat no.1), belongs. This composition, demonstrative of the intense clash of the acts of construction and destruction in Millares’s work (a tendency that increased over the artist’s career), was first shown in a solo exhibition at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1957.[5] This exhibition became the impetus behind the foundation of the seminal artistic group, El Paso, confirming the formative role this artist from the Canary Islands came to play as a cultural agitator: not only his knowledge as a painter but also the skill of his literary writings were of fundamental importance to this endeavour.[6] As the artists of this group proclaimed, they would shake people’s consciousness, for the war was on: the abstract artist’s war.[7]

Yet, this same year, 1957, the year when Millares produced the burlap painting, Cuadro 18 (1) (Painting 18 (1)), 1957 (cat no.2), was also a crucial moment in Millares’s development as an artist. In addition to the formation of El Paso, an art collective devoted to social agitation and artistic reflection, founded in the spring in Madrid[8] as a counter response to the bleary apathy of Franco’s Spain, this was the year his work suddenly began to receive international acclaim, attracting the attention of prominent figures from the American cultural milieu. In this now mythic year, he enjoyed representation at the IV Biennial in São Paulo, where ten of his burlaps were displayed.[9]

It should be added that the work on burlap discussed above is one of a trio of works, ‘savage’ and ‘brutal’, that were shown at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris during the exhibition La jeune peinture espagnole–13 Peintres espagnols actuel (1959). Françoise Choay, an art critic involved in the curation of the exhibition, commented on these works in L’Oeil: ‘Il peint maintenant des toiles dont le blanc et le noir sont dramatisés par l’usage sauvage et extraordinairement savant de la toile de sac façonnée avec brutalité, déchirée et cousue avec des cordes qui font apparaître dans les toiles des vides béants.’[10] This exhibition was a formative opportunity for Millares, where he was able to meet Portuguese artists Lourdes Castro and René Bertholo, who were then residing in Paris; he would go on to become a contributor to their newly founded magazine, KWY, on numerous occasions, up until its final publication in 1963. His involvement with the graphic arts, increasingly prominent at that time, came largely as a result of his encounter with the editors of KWY.[11] This twist of fate in Paris would also be responsible for Millares’s inveterate dedication to graphic art and a certain typophilia.

A year later, two more exhibitions, at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, would also include his burlap works,[12] such as the dazzling, flayed, skeleton-like canvas Cuadro 96 (Painting 96), 1960 (cat. no.4). The MoMA show was curated by poet and museum curator Frank O’Hara, who gave it the title New Spanish Painting and Sculpture[13] and wrote that, ‘after his earlier periods, [Millares] began to examine the torn canvas, stitching over the voids, creating harsh and enigmatic encrustations from burlap dipped in whiting, or bandage-like swathes, painted and splattered. […] his works have more and more taken on the aspect of ceremonial vestiges […] the homunculi series presents a specifically figurative development […].’[14]

As with O’Hara, our young painter’s posthumous renown has been on the rise ever since his premature death at the age of forty-six. The most recent retrospective of his work, held in 2006, followed the publication of the catalogue raisonné of his paintings.[15] The exhibition title La destrucción y el amor (Destruction and Love), made reference to the vital essence and existence of two inseparable realities on a single plane, forever coexisting in Millares’s work with a sense of hope embedded in the future. These words, reminiscent of the poet Vicente Aleixandre, were written by the Canary Islander himself: ‘Destruction and love run neck-and-neck across dislocated space and landscapes. What does it matter if a man is broken when roses made of river mud and replenishing essences emerge from him like fists.’[16]

The phrase also evokes a fragment from a text written at the time on this retrospective by his critic par excellence, poet José-Augusto França, who spoke of ‘the oceanic hope of the world.’ França once dedicated a short text to Elvireta Escobio[17], in which he wrote of the ever-hopeful aspect – a certain omnihopefulness, if we may allow the word – of the artwork by the Las Palmas-born painter. This is the same sense of hopefulness also perceived by his Parisian gallerist, Daniel Cordier. Cordier wrote, nearly word for word, about the way Millares constantly remained hopeful that our imperfect world might one day be completely changed. His work, as one of his first gallerists in the early sixties once put it, speaks of humiliation, misery and pain, yet also of our forever sought after triumph over injustice.

Despite the variety of themes and subject matter present in Millares’s work, he did establish a number of recurrent themes that constantly preoccupied him. His passion for sonorous depths, already discernible in his pictographs of aborigines and ocean floors from the 1950s, would persist throughout his career, as seen in Animal de fondo (1) (Deep Sea Creature (1)), 1965 (cat no.7), as well as in works belonging to the Minas (Mines) cycle, also from the mid-1960s.[18] This continued in his obsession with the inner depths of caves and for what dwells in the subsoil, his fascination with the phrase sic transit gloria mundi (thus passes the glory of the world), vanitas artworks and sarcophagi. He drew inspiration from the aboriginal paintings of his homeland in the Islands, represented symbolically through the petroglyphs of the Balos cliffs in other works from the 1950s, and from painted walls. These themes continue in the frenetically scrawled annotations in his paintings, which evoke the ‘graffiti’ of the Spanish Grand Inquisitor, Tomás de Torquemada (take a look at the emotionally stirring world of signs appearing in Memoria de una excavación (Memory of an Excavation), 1970 (cat no.9), in his experimental walls of material objects, and in the perforated surfaces from the 1960s. Millares is an artist who cannot be pinned down, classifiable according to subject matter yet at the same time boundless, as he weaves it all together. Another frequently depicted image is the likeness of the homúnculo (homunculus), as in the beautiful work from 1965 (cat. no.6).[19] From 1958 onward, Millares would go on to produce forty-five different paintings entitled Homúnculo[20] and several other paintings employed the same likeness. The title would persist throughout his career as a visual artist, to his final paintings in the 1970s, even appearing in the subtitle of certain paintings from his final series, Antropofauna (Anthropofauna). These paintings are generally cross-shaped compositions, in which the stitching and folding of burlap, to imbue volume in the work, emulates a sense of corporeal vision. The figure of the homunculus appears to be held upright by the edge of the painting itself, often from the upper edge. This bundle or hanging body serves as a sacrificial elogium abandoned to the void of empty space, yet it is a space that nevertheless seems, at times, as though it might be holding the figure up, tenuously, by its arms, drained of blood, while other times the figure seems suspended by strips of cloth, suggesting ineffectual limbs.[21]

These paintings conjure up warriors, acts of mourning, fallen figures, homages to the indefatigable vertigo of the Orinoco expedition, as seen in his series dedicated to the explorer Alexander von Humboldt (Humboldt en el Orinoco). They are recollections of the abyssal world, of the deep-sea currents that hark back to the deepest depths.

While Millares’s works often depicted the intertwining of disparate worlds, in particular during the sixties, it is also true that there are other trajectories that diaphanously carve out their course, moving perceptibly on a route toward clarity. Here we consider his progression as a round-trip from the earlier, raw burlaps which he began numbering in 1957, in which the burlap’s material texture appears with a blinding nakedness, leaving you with dust itself as your guide and companion. These were followed by increasingly black-toned works, from the beginning of the 1960s, after which he ultimately returned to white before the end of his life. It is important to mention that after an initial figurative period, Millares entered his prime as an abstract artist, unhesitatingly and with absolute precision, in a mature artistic career that lasted, as noted above, a mere fifteen years. There are few examples of artists who have so successfully consolidated their style with such little vacillation from their creative objectives.

It may be said that Millares came into his own as an artist with his pictographs, starting in the early fifties. Prior to this he had created a handful of paintings, in particular a few family portraits of an Expressionist nature, with vibrant colours. Some of these ‘subsistence’ works, which he painted to make a living, include self portraits and countryside scenes, which call to mind the artists of the Die Brücke group, especially the works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Between 1950 and 1951, Millares was painting in a new studio located in his hometown on Calle Albareda, lent to him by a relative. In 1951 he was given his first solo shows in Barcelona and Madrid. The artist’s studio at that time overlooked the port, a premonition of the voyage he would embark on from that same port a few years later, in 1955, on board the Transatlantic ‘Alcantara’, which would carry him away to the peninsula where he would live thereafter.

From then on, the creative force of Millares’s production left no room for doubt, as he started out on a path he would never abandon. His pictographic and aboriginal artworks recalled the inscriptions and cave paintings left by the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands and his preoccupation with the ‘wall’ would later give way to the dimensión perdida compositions achieved through piercing holes in the burlap canvas, an attempt to reveal infinite voids of mystery.

Millares was an artist who enjoyed international recognition early in his career. Many of the paintings he presented at the 1957 Bienal de São Paolo were acquired by American collections, including the important private collections of James Johnson Sweeney, Philip Johnson, and Nelson A. Rockefeller. Cuadro 9 (1957), purchased by MoMA in 1958, remains in the collection to this day[22]. Without doubt, Manolo Millares is one of the few contemporary Spanish artists whose work has received major international acclaim. In 1960 his paintings were already being shown in two of the most notable galleries of the time, Daniel Cordier, based in Paris and Frankfurt, and Pierre Matisse in New York. Indeed, it is one of the ink drawings in this show (cat. no.11) that served as the cover to the catalogue for the first Millares exhibition held in this New York gallery.

When Millares died, Françoise Choay wrote that his work was, ‘celle d’un des artistes majeurs de ce temps. […] Moment vertigineux dans l’histoire d’un art qui est au bord de se perdre. En se servant des matériaux les plus humbles, Millares récupère et dépasse la grande tradition expressive du baroque. Manolo Millares était un grand peintre que d’autres générations apprendront à connaître. L’ami merveilleux, le compagnon des longues soirées et des discussions sans fin sur l’art, la politique et aussi ses deux passions : l’archéologie et le cinéma […]’[23]

Daniel Cordier himself quoted Françoise Choay, when discussing Millares’s hopes for the future: ‘Manolo Millares me fut recommandé en 1959 par Françoise Choay […] son oeuvre fait appel aux forces de la nuit (avec) l’espoir que tout change dans ce monde imparfait. Ses peintures sont des étendards […] frappés aux couleurs de l’humiliation, de la misère, mais aussi de cette pitié qui veut triompher de l’injustice.’[24]

At the beginning of the sixties, Millares had travelled to London. His work was being shown in several group shows of contemporary Spanish painting at some of the most prestigious galleries in town, most importantly the Arthur Tooth gallery, which was particularly receptive of his work.[25] As early as 1963, two of his paintings had already been acquired by the Tate Gallery for their collection.[26]

In 1966 Millares began writing his forty-seven notes for Memoria de una excavación urbana (Memory of an Urban Excavation), a work he finished in January 1971 and was published by Gustavo Gili.[27] Without a doubt, these texts relate to the group of works including the astounding Memoria de una excavación (1970), a triumph of the dark, while other writings clearly relate to other works from this time, such as Excavación (1971) and Sobre una excavación (On an Excavation) (1971), as well as the portfolio of twelve silkscreens, Descubrimiento en Millares 1671 (Discovery in Millares 1671), nearly an epitaph, which was published posthumously by the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca. A voracious analyst of Spanish history, many of Millares’s works on the theme of spatial depth speak to the notion of vanitas, the end of the world, and the dust we shall return to after our time of glory: El inquisidor (The Inquisitor) and Torquemada (1968), or El sueño del príncipe (The Prince’s Dream) (1970). And even more so, we may look to his series of sarcophagi, Sarcófago para un indeseable (Sarcophagus for the Unwanted), 1960 and 1967, Sarcófago para Felipe II (Sarcophagus for Philip II), 1963, Almohadón de Felipe II (Philip II’s Pillow), 1968–9, or Sarcófago para un personaje feudal (Sarcophagus for a Feudal Lord), 1970. His portfolios of engravings, Auto de Fe (Auto-da-Fé)[28], 1967, and the Torquemada silkscreens would return insistently to the subject of the bigotry of the Inquisitors (another obsession of Millares).

At this juncture, it is worth mentioning the recurrent presence of black in Millares’s works, such as Cuadro (10) (Painting (10)), 1964 (cat. no.5), which bring to mind this quote from Millares in 1944: ‘Who in the hell would take any interest in a canvas as black as coal?’ These were the paintings that swept Millares away from the tormented sense of Informalism into the world of monochromatic painting, alongside other painters such as Soulages, who also paid tribute to the colour black.

In 1969 Manolo Millares and Elvireta Escobio took a trip to the Sahara. Among the memories and copious notes he wrote while in the desert, the dazzling light, the bazaars and the skeletons of animals strewn along the roadside, the inspiration evoked in his final works was born. The trip resulted in paintings such as Animales del desierto (Desert Animals), 1969–70, and later series of works such as Antropofauna (1970–72) and Neanderthalio (1970–1). He also created a portfolio of etchings, Antropofauna, published by Gili in 1970.

Finally, he embarked on his last inexorable march, his ethical position as a painter: serenity, the triumph of white and calm light, and hope in the face of hatefulness and injustice. This is the essential light that permeates, as the end approaches.[29]

A classical artist in a time of fading light, the death of Manolo Millares on Monday, 14th August 1972, in Madrid, brought to mind the words of Charles Baudelaire from Artificial Paradises, the same words that Mishima once used as an epigraph in one of his books: ‘la mort nous affecte plus profondément sous le règne pompeux de l’été.’[30]

 

Alfonso de la Torre

 

With special thanks to Elvireta Escobio and her daughters, Eva and Coro Millares.

 

ALFONSO DE LA TORRE is a renowned specialist in the work of Manolo Millares. He is the author of the Catálogo Razonado de Pinturas (Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings), published by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Fundación Azcona (Madrid, 2004). He has recently published Manolo Millares. La atracción del horror (Manolo Millares: An Attraction to Horror) [Cuenca: Genueve Ediciones, 2016], with the forthcoming publication of Catálogo Razonado de su obra calcográfica (Catalogue Raisonné of His Chalcographic Work).

 

____________________________________________

[1] MILLARES, Manolo. ‘El arte -hoy- bordea ya esa línea divisoria con lo imposible’.  Cuatro pintores españoles.  Madrid: El Paso, March 1958.

[2] Concerning the painting shown in Venice in 1956, Vicente Aguilera Cerni wrote: ‘in the XXVIII Venice Biennale I watched him present a “wall” with a “missing dimension”. Now, it is a gaping maw in the wall, a fissure into infinity.’ AGUILERA CERNI, Vicente. ‘Millares’. Madrid: Punta Europa 12, November 1956.

[3] As we shall come to see, 1957 was a turning point in the trajectory of Manolo Millares as an artist.

[4] ‘I do not admit the existence of a third visual, fictitious dimension; rather, I am acknowledging its authentic, material dimensionality. This is what I call the ‘missing dimension’, because its foundation is in reality itself and, consequently, it does not disrupt the frontalism of the museum’s wall. I emphasise this dimension because it is what most occupies my attention presently, as it is something that affects me personally. I have just sent a painting to the Venice Biennale with a hole torn in its surface as an expressive element: a painting with a lost dimension, a “wall with a hole in it”.’ Manolo Millares, 1956. Quoted in: DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Manolo Millares. La destrucción y el amor. La Coruña: Fundación Caixa Galicia, 2006, pp.259–260.

[5] Sala del Prado at the Ateneo de Madrid, held from 2 to 15 February 1957. Between 1956 and 1957, the same years when his work was first shown at the IV Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna of São Paulo, Millares began to number his paintings for the first time. It was not until 1962 that he would once again begin naming his works with words.

[6] It was a well-known fact that Manolo Millares was a passionate cultural agitator. This was already evident in the publication of his review Planas de Poesía, a magazine he started with his brothers during his youth. He would play a major role in the pioneering group LADAC–Los arqueros del arte contemporáneo (The Archers of Contemporary Art), a group vigilantly ready ‘to fire off their arrows, sharpened to a point and dipped in paint, at a very specific target: the eyes of all the painters in Spain.’ Manolo Millares quoting Eduardo Westerdahl in ‘LADAC se preparan a lanzar sus flechas’ (LADAC they are preparing to launch their arrows). LADAC, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1951. Later in his life, he became part of the Catalan artistic community, in an attempt to bring life back to the impoverished Spanish cultural scene.

[7] SÁNCHEZ, Alfonso. ‘Ha empezado la guerra entre los abstractos. Objetivo de El Paso: contra la geometría’. Madrid: Informaciones, 16 April 1957.

[8] On 20 February 1957 the group El Paso was founded, with the declaration of its manifesto in the winter of 1958. The El Paso group published its first manifesto (2000 copies) in the month of March. This initial manifesto was signed by Ayllón, Canogar, Conde, Feito, Francés, Millares, Rivera, Saura, Serrano and Suárez, and was published in Spanish, Catalan, French, German, English and Arabic: ‘The group ‘El Paso’ was first founded in February of 1957 in Madrid by painters Antonio Saura, Manolo Millares, Rafael Canogar and Luis Feito. Sometime after, they were joined by painter Manuel Viola, painter and sculptor Manuel Rivera and sculptor Martín Chirino.’ Reprinted in Madrid-Palma de Mallorca: Papeles de Son Armadans, Year IV, vol.XIII, nº 37, April 1959. The founding documents were presented at the Galería Buchholz exhibition: ‘El Paso’. Primera exposición del grupo, con obras de Canogar, Feito, Francés, Millares, Rivera, Saura, Serrano y Suárez, Madrid, 15 April 1957.

[9] Museu de Arte Moderna, IV Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, 22 September–December 1957. Millares exhibited ten works. Vid: DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. La presencia española en la IV Bienal de São Paulo: 1957. Una bienal contradictoria. Alzuza-Navarra: Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, 2007.

[10] CHOAY, Françoise. ‘L’école espagnole’. Paris: L’Oeil 51, March 1959. ‘He now paints canvases in which white and black are dramatised by the savage and extraordinarily clever use of the sackcloth fashioned with brutality, torn and stitched with string that appears in the paintings gaping emptiness.’ The exhibition toured from the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, under the title Jonge Spaanse Kunst, to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and afterwards to the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, titled La jeune peinture espagnole–13 Peintres espagnols actuels and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Fribourg. This same show was later presented at Kunsthalle Basel as Junge Spanische Maler and Staatsbauschule-Akademie fur Bautechnik in Munich, finally ending at Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Gothenburg as Unga Spanska Målare. The three paintings shown by Millares in this exhibition were Cuadro 18 (1) (1957) (cat. no.2), Cuadro 7 (1957) and Cuadro 64 (1959).

[11] As taken from DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Manolo Millares: la imperiosa necesidad de lo nuevo. La obra gráfica de Manolo Millares (1959–1972). Marbella, Toledo-Cuenca, Madrid: Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo, Junta de Comunidades de Castilla–La Mancha-Fundación Antonio Pérez and Fundación Juan March, 2016.

[12] Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Before Picasso: After Miró, New York, 21 June–20 October 1960 and The Museum of Modern Art, New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, New York, 20 July–25 September 1960.

[13] The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, New York, 20 July–25 September 1960. Touring to Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 31 October–28 November 1960; Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, Ohio, 3–31 January 1961; Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 16 February–16 March 1961; Joe & Emily Lowe Art Gallery, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida 1–29 April 1961; Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas, 15 May–12 June 1961; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 19 July–27 August 1961; Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, 18 September–16 October 1961; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1–29 November 1961; Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, 15 December 1961–12 January 1962. O’Hara attended the IV Bienal de São Paulo, along with Manolo Millares, and saw Millares’s work in real life for the first time. The American critic had organized an exhibition of three sculptors and five painters for this Biennial. The American press covered the Spanish art exhibition being held at MoMA and the Corcoran Gallery. Carlton Lake published an article in The Atlantic, ‘The New Spanish Painters’, as part of a supplement dedicated to Spanish art (vol.207, no.1, Boston, January 1961). Lake wrote in his article: ‘Millares’s rough expanses of burlap, slashed, resewn, and gathered together, project a brutal but unforgettable vision of human existence.’ (p.106). An article by Carlyle Burrows in The New York Herald Tribune (New York, 24 July 1960) also merits a mention, along with another article on Millares published in The Washington Post (Washington, D.C., 2 November 1960), not to forget the piece by Irving Herschel Sandler: ‘New York Letter’, Art International, vol.IV, no.9, Zurich, 1 November 1960). The majority of these articles contained photographs of the works on display in the exhibitions.

[14] O’HARA, Frank. New Spanish Painting and Sculpture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1960, p.9.

[15] DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Catálogo Razonado Pinturas. Manolo Millares. Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Fundación Azcona, 2004. Based on a previous work by Juan Manuel Bonet.

[16] MILLARES, Manolo. ‘El homúnculo en la pintura española actual’. Madrid-Palma de Mallorca: Papeles de Son Armadans, Year IV, vol.XIII, nº 37, April 1959.

[17] The artist’s wife.

[18] Animal de fondo (1) (cat no.7), is one of the many works where Millares alludes to the deep, as we have mentioned before, from his pictographs of aborigines to the paintings inspired by the Canary Islands’ cave paintings. It is important to mention his paintings of the 1960s such as La mina (The Mine), 1962–8, and his Galería de la mina (Gallery of the Mine), 1965. An artist with fixed obsessions, his series of paintings Walls, 1952–6, seemed to speak of excavations and the discovery of archaeological remains, evidence and evocation of prehistoric times.

[19] Included in the one-man exhibition at Pierre Matisse Gallery, Manolo Millares “los mutilados de paz”: paintings on canvas and paper 1963–1965. New York, 23 March–17 April 1965. Catalogue with text by José-Augusto França, ‘Millares, or the advance into white’. Millares had solo exhibitions at Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1959, 1960, 1965, 1974 and 1987.

[20] Cuadro 39, 1958, subtitled Homúnculo, is the first of this kind of painting to bear this title. We refer specifically to his burlap paintings under this title, not his drawings. This subject is dealt with extensively in DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Manolo Millares. La atracción del horror. Cuenca: Genueve ediciones, 2016.

[21] ‘Millares wrote on 6 March 1964 that this picture [Cuadro 150 (1961)] belongs to a series of paintings in black and white. This series was begun in 1956–7 and came to an end in 1963, though he continued to use austere colours (black, white, red, pink…). Within this series was a further one which he called ‘Homunculos’, i.e. man in a primitive state. The first work of the ‘Homunculos’ type dated from 1958. All his paintings since 1957 had included some reference to human forms, always beginning with the organic and ‘living’ drama of man, the drama of his own country with all its political and social problems. The picture owned by the Tate was more figurative than most and therefore close to the ‘Homunculos’ theme.’ ALLEY, Ronald. Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists. London: Tate Gallery, 1981, p.516. The Millares painting in the Tate Gallery’s permanent collection was acquired through Arthur Tooth & Sons.

[22] Cuadro 18 (1) (1957) (cat. no.2) remained for several years in the Alcoa Collection of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh.

[23] CHOAY, Françoise. Il avait quarante-sept ans. Madrid: Galería Juana Mordó, 1973. ‘that of one of the major artists of this time. […] a vertiginous moment in the history of an art that is on the verge of being lost. By using the most humble materials, Millares recovers and exceeds the great tradition of expressive baroque. Manolo Millares was a great painter that other generations will learn about. The wonderful friend, a companion of late nights and endless discussions about art, politics, and also his two passions: archeology and film.’

[24] Exhibition of the painters in Galerie Daniel Cordier, under the title 8 Ans d’agitation. Paris, 1964. ‘Manolo Millares was recommended to me in 1959 by Françoise Choay […] his work appealed to the forces of the night (with) the hope that everything changes in this imperfect world. His paintings are banners […] struck with colours of humiliation, of misery, but also this mercy which wants to triumph over injustice.’

[25] The group shows referred to here were: Arthur Tooth & Sons, La nueva pintura de España, Ten Contemporary Spanish Painters (Cuixart, Feito, Lago, Lucio, Méndez, Millares, Saura, Tàpies, Tharrats, Vila-Casas), London, 19 January–13 February 1960 and La nueva pintura de España II. Six Contemporary Spanish Painters (Feito, Lago, Lucio, Millares, Saura, Victoria), London, 4 January–3 February 1962. Tooth also exhibited his work in Recent developments in painting V, 18 September–13 October 1962. Millares participated in The Dunn International, an exhibition of contemporary art at the Tate Gallery, London, 14 November–14 December 1963 and in Contemporary Spanish Painting and Sculpture at Marlborough Fine Art and The New London Gallery, London, 1–31 January 1962.

[26] In 1963 The Tate Gallery acquired Cuadro 150 (1961). As has been mentioned in a previous note, the artist wrote a letter to the museum on 6 March 1964, explaining its meaning. In 1971 The Tate Gallery acquired a second painting by Millares from the collection of Sir George Labouchere. He had been the British Ambassador in Spain from 1960 to 1966. The Friends of the Tate Gallery donated their Cuadro between 1964 and 1965.

[27] Barcelona, 1973. A second edition came out in 2015, published by Galería Guillermo de Osma, Madrid, compiled and prefaced by this author. DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Manolo Millares: Tocando la certeza de la letra. Madrid: Galería Guillermo de Osma, 2015.

[28] Auto-da-Fé or Auto-de-Fé, from the Portuguese auto da fé, meaning ‘act of faith’, was the religious ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that followed the trials and sentencing of the Spanish or Portuguese Inquisitions.

[29] It was José-Augusto França who coined the term ‘victory of white’, in the catalogue for Millares’s posthumous exhibition at Pierre Matisse Gallery. In the critic’s words: ‘the white of these last paintings is both physical and metaphysical: it creates a symbolic space in which the experience transcends itself, to the n’th power, without disavowing itself in the process […] a purely lyrical plane where the artist finds a sort of active tranquility, in tension.

His white painting, openly structured, thus lends itself to an infinite number of interpretations: it is the living structure of a lifestyle that refuses all personal satisfaction in order to assume a greater creative responsibility. […] It is exalting to follow, canvas by canvas, the conquering progress of this white, the significant and symbolic victory of what had become Millares’s color.’ FRANÇA, José-Augusto. ‘Millares or the White Victory’. Homage to Manolo Millares: His Last Paintings 1969–1971. New York: Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1974.

[30] BAUDELAIRE, Charles. Les paradis artificels, opium et haschisch. Paris: Poulet-Malassis et de Broise, 1860. ‘Death affects us more profoundly beneath the pompous reign of summer.’