Zóbel/Chillida, a Meeting

Zóbel/Chillida, a Meeting

Zóbel/Chillida, a Meeting


Don’t let them hold you back.

Fernando Zóbel (Conversation with Alfonso Ossorio, 1955)


I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights(1847)


[Like crisscrossing paths, the lives of Zóbel and Chillida intersected in the mid-sixties. In the fifties, with the two of them a long way from their birthplace, subjected at that time to a fertile solitude, abandoning the path dictated by their families, their concept of creativity had many common points. Something that was demonstrated in their meeting in Cuenca, narrated here in detail, on the occasion of the incorporation of an extraordinary sculpture by Chillida in the Museo de Arte Abstractoin 1964. Mutual admiration, the feeling of having known each forever, friendship, a fondness for poetry, a way with words, a eulogizing of the East: for Zóbel, Chillida was—without doubt, he will say—the greatest sculptor of our time].

1 More life than ever Iimagined… Fernando Zóbel before Rothko’s painting, it is 1955

An artist who died before the age of 60, Fernando Zóbel de Ayala (Manila, 1924-Rome, 1984). I think now of his life, the intensity it had, that way of living tumultuously among paintings and drawings, prints, photographs, the artists of his time or those of the past, museums and exhibitions, artworks, friendships, travels, readings and collections. Seeing, but not just as an observer, for he also functioned as an interpreter of the world, it is often said, the world of the past and the world pulsating around him. It is difficult, with this word and this today, to encompass such an intense existence, capable of completing in scarcely three decades a life of fulfilment as a painter, but also the writing of a score of journals and the completion of a hundred notebooks (which included annotations, sketches, drawings and collage, various cuttings), as well as the maintaining of an exhaustive list of his paintings. And painting, of course. “The life of a delighted monk,”[1]enmeshed in an infinite curiosity capable of embracing diverse fields, including archaeology and a knowledge of music and its performance. Impossible, too, to keep up with his lust for reading art criticism as well as poetry and the classical novel. This would merit a separate study.

Frequently crossing the globe, firstly for his studies in America and later for his trips to Manila and other cities, which took him to far-flung places like Japan. And I think that in point of fact the complexity of his existence has led to his being remembered in different areas and, being more difficult to grasp, it is easy to evade accurate classification, to actually be confused by such a host of facets.

“If only every day had eighty hours!” Zóbel would write.[2]Ah, time, which ends up interlined with his words. And maybe other words might be repeated, words that are odd for being premature, at the start of glimpsing the world beyond the family environment: “What I live and have lived […] is more life than ever Iimagined.”[3]

It was all dizzying, of course, because it occurred in the three decades after his arrival among us at the end of the fifties. To his complex endeavours as an artist we have to add another action which must be described as creative; one cannot understand in any other way the decision to embark on a collection and the conception of a Museum among artists. To which there was to be combined the various measures, bureaucratic and museistic, needed to create our first democratic museum in a small town rooted in the past, which has since become an international reference (and before “since,” prior to its official opening), the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, or Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, in Cuenca (1966).[4]These days I have been calling the matter under discussion a “separate part” of the oft-narrated general history, one which is full of these lost micro-histories, buried by the callous routines of historiography. We promptly find Fernando Zóbel and Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924-2002) before each other, firm friends now, in tandem with the paradigmatic concerted effort growing out of Zóbel’s immense admiration for the latter, which will lead to the Cuenca museum incorporating the imposing sculpture Abesti Gogora IV(1964).

For the formation of those of us who write and think about contemporary art Zóbel was crucial, his existence and legacy constitute us, for let us not forget that he exerted a notable influence regarding, on, the world of the painters of his generation, but also on the young critical generations, and even—I now see—on those who arrive in this future that is now. His exemplary life, attitude and hyper-concentrated thinking on art, the passing of his days inseparably linked to creation, was a model for us, hence the quote from Wuthering Heightsthat opens this text: Zóbel was a generator of dreams that changed one’s ideas, repeatedly transfixing us, altering the colour of our minds. I’ve also recently made a note of a word or two of Juan Ramón Jiménez’s, another of Zóbel’s weaknesses, so as to add that better a life full of asking the intellect questions than a life spent in stultifying tranquillity.

To us he revealed artists, movements, writings or museums and, more importantly, particular paintings that, beguiled by his way of speaking, were transformed into events; he disturbed us, in other words. He helped us to understand that, in terms of the world of thistle and ash we might dwell in, Antonio Saura dixit,[5]redress was possible. And much of his thinking was compiled in a few writings that—uninhibitedly intermingling the serious with an overwhelming naturalness, high culture with the recounting of the day to day, an ever present irony and sense of humour—remained on this writer’s bedside table. Among these, I now highlight his Cuaderno de apuntes(1974)[6]and the really beautiful monograph Zóbel: La Serie Blanca(1978),[7]with its indispensable dialogue with Rafael Pérez-Madero, possibly one of most carefully produced books on art, translated into English, printed in the still grey seventies. Excerpts from that dialogue are reproduced in this catalogue. Or I frequently go back to others, the words he wrote for the monograph by Torner in 1978, which reflect with a textual lack of inhibition, almost with charm, upon the work of art and creation in general, upon what we call style, upon life and the serious meaning of the word “play.”[8]His Notebookshave been a guide, too, to a number of trips to cities and museums, involving, as well, the discovery of such oddball writers as the eccentric Cyril Connolly.

Zóbel’s youth had passed amid painful memories, those of a devastated Manila and a country in pain due to the world war. When he settles in Spain in winter 1958 that pain was not that different to ours; as Zóbel recalled, his childhood home was destroyed by the war.[9]And I often think of this artist, deciding to flee from a centre of pain towards the desire for a fulfilling life, something symbolized, perhaps, in the conception of the first house he creates, a studio shared with Gerardo Rueda in Madrid. It was a genuine hyper-home, a house to joyfully shut oneself away in, with books, collections of stained glass, prints and paintings. To paint and read, and to exclaim, and why not, long live life in “Villa Wellbeing.”

Writing, I read him, I observe his first steps and I discover Federico García Lorca when I contemplate the painting At Five in the Afternoon(1946), his first “original,” as he put it. It’s partly a Cubist and partly a surrealistic composition, with reminiscences besetting that hectic space: one close to the early world of Dalí, Lorca or, I think, even Picabia and certain vibratos of Barradas’s. Referring to that odd picture, the artist himself wrote in his Cuaderno:[10]“The second oil painting I did, and the first with an original composition. Subject matter suggested by the poem by García Lorca, ‘Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías.’” For Zóbel the youthful reader, of course, Lorca had been a passion, as well as the subject of his doctoral thesis at Harvard University, “Theme and Conflict in Lorcian Drama,” with El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín(The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden)being translated by him into English and also illustrated. In the sixties I once more find works whose titles cite citing Lorca.[11]Having gone over his life so many times I end up concluding that it was the way of life of an artist without what is commonly known as a break. Free of fatigue, his life was the pursuit of enjoyment in knowledge.

The times we’ve been citing were years of bewilderment, largely refined after his arrival at Harvard in 1946. He always cited the shock of his visit, that same year, to the MoMA exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe.[12]

As well as the difficulties of intellectual growth, Zóbel was running away from the difficulties he found in his country in terms of painting and museums, of the artistic system, as revealed by a visit in summer 1949 to the National Museum of the Philippines. The pitiful description he gives of what he finds there leaves no room for doubt: “Broken panes of glass, paintings in the sciences building. Modern paintings in a room with a sign that says ‘Cytology.’ The director […] a good person and likeable, but his real interest is botany […] the group of young painters is combating the Amorsolo style and the tiresome influence of Sorolla […] I’d like to be able to give each of these painters the gift of being able to travel.”[13]

But also the angst of his stranded personal life, which he describes in a quasi-Kafkian tone, “a fishbowl life” that has run aground: “Terrible heat, everything mildewed. The city is covered in mildew and is rotting. The stray dogs commit suicide, allowing themselves to be run over by cars that progress very slowly and wearily.”[14]A note must also refer to the aforesaid time he was obliged to spend at Harvard, at his family’s insistence, which ended in the spring of 1950. It was a personal liberation and a first step towards leaving forever: “the ugly history of my disillusionment and disgust with the Law School […] a putrid weight that was sucking the life out of me.”[15]

Zóbel’s first figurative pictures barely occupied five years, until around 1955, which appears to be a key cut-off year. They depicted images of a somewhat conventional and even folkloric world, yet painted with a modern look; mainly the life and landscape seen in the Philippines.

Of special relevance was his contact, via Reed Champion,[16]with the artists of the so-called Boston School, as well as the collaboration of Pfeufer, head of the graphic design programme at the Rhode Island School of Design, who granted the artist entry to the latter—it was an act of salvation, almost—where in 1955 he was to study printmaking, painting, drawing and architecture, as well as coinciding with an exhibition by Rothko. Of import at that time was the influence of Hyman Bloom,[17]whose painting Zóbel values, although he might prefer Champion’s,[18]but is awed by a picture by Bloom that he has before him, Treasure Map(1945).[19]

In 1952 Zóbel makes a joke, with his bibliomaniac friend Philip Hofer,[20]aimed at Carl Sandburg, a poet and personality of wide-ranging knowledge. A joke in the form of an abstract painting bearing the title of one of his poems: “The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on.”[21]The painting was of the slightest, just a few wisps of fog, like those the poem speaks of.

“Like a lingering illness,”[22]in Zóbel’s words, his future journey would evolve towards abstraction, quite a distance, since in my opinion that painting and that joke made for a serious intellectual marks the preamble to an ensemble of singular pictorial acts that would lead him in three years to an entirely abstract world, coinciding with the encounter with Rothko’s work. The joke had ended when, ever daring, he would present a picture called Lighted Nothing(1953) in an exhibit that was presented that same year in the first show of non-objective, namely abstract, art in an ultra-conservative Philippines.[23]Another Zóbel painting shown in that exhibition reveals the singlemindedness of his leap forward: a curious picture called Snappers(1953) seems like the first incursion into the Informalist world, a few smudges contained in abstract forms and a first attempt at drip painting and calligraphy. A further painting of that same year will be added to the strange exhibition: Sea Voyage. On the panel a barely suggested plane, with a stain at either end, akin to positive and negative. It all began here; here was the upheaval.

The transition between figuration and abstraction occurs in 1953-54, while observing that Zóbel’s abstract painting is always connected with its own immanence. To be sure, in 1954, perhaps tempted by local exhibition activity, he still painted a few figurative pictures, like the beautiful Self-Portrait with a Red Wall(1954), a room with his portrait hanging on its wall. It wasn’t just a representation of the room, however: there seemed to be something symbolic in that image of an empty room, almost like a eulogy to the room of someone who had absented himself. Like someone who looks at a room from the outside, it was as if the personage portrayed, the painter himself, had already embarked on his disappearance, his departure from conventional places. The self-portrait was not present and that nominal mention was almost an oxymoron, self-portrayed are the things that surround him, with the portrait being the canvas hanging on the wall contemplating the interior described in lit-up lights, akin to twilight.


In autumn 1954 Zóbel finds himself in a place that moves him, the landscapes of the Charles River in Boston, particularly the views of Weeks Bridge between Cambridge and Allston.[24]At times I’ve thought, later on we’ll see, that Zóbel’s isolation in Boston was equivalent to Chillida’s seclusion in that same decade in Villaines-sous-Bois, sharing the experience of estrangement and solitude. At this point he heads elsewhere, we have to mention the beautiful landscapes of Providence, New England, the gorgeous views of the river painted by Zóbel, like the Impressionists, in its seasonal incarnations. We know that the changing aspect of the river was all but uncapturable, this being one of the painterly themes that was to accompany him all through his life. Brazen in their beauty, those landscapes had an air of finality, a magnificent lightness that was not exempt from intensity. They were a goodbye to all that.


Zóbel’s encounter with the exhibitionRecent Paintings by Mark Rothko,[25]organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, and later on show at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence at the start of 1955, was a decisive event in his life as a painter. And in some way the pictures Zóbel paints that summer and presents in the Bienal Hispanoamericana (Spanish-American Biennial) a few months later—we’ll refer to it in a moment—may be considered the first works in that Rothko slipstream; they contain a reflection of sorts on some of those shown in the exhibition Zóbel sees in 1955.[26]We know our artist found himself face to face with some extraordinary works by Rothko in Providence: No. 4 (Yellow, Black, Orange on Yellow (Untitled) (1955), No. 7 (Green and Maroon)(1955) and No. 10(Untitled) (1952-55).


As sinuous as Rothko’s path towards clarity, arriving at that spring of 1955 Zóbel’s titles announce his definitive shift towards abstraction, with frequent use of the generic term Compositionannouncing the non-representative. Also, Zóbel has visited Spain and has had a chance to see the timid but unstoppable presence of the new abstract painting, while various of his compositions are exhibited in Barcelona in the III Bienal Hispanoamericana,[27]representing the Philippines. Zóbel’s pictures do not escape, in the biennial hubbub, the astute gaze of another Catalan artist, Joan Josep Tharrats, in Revista: “The Philippine contribution is of interest. Fernando Zóbel creates a cosmic painting in which ochres and yellows dominate.”[28]“Cosmic painting,” a fine epithet, a visionary one if we think of the advent, years later, of the paintings of his Saeta(Arrow) series, possibly the very cycle that, given the sweep and intensity of its pictorial analysis, will entail the effective shift to abstraction. At long last Zóbel will be able to start utilizing the long-desired “paintbrush for painting fog,” ready and waiting in his studio since 1949, or begin putting into practice a book on painting with instructions on “how one ought to do the rocks, trees, mountains, et cetera.”[29]


It has already been underlined just how crucial the visit to the Rothko exhibition was, but almost immediately there is another show that is not without its importance: in March 1955 seeing Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture[30]at the University of Illinois must have been a shock. Proof of this is the imminent gifting of the catalogue to near and dear Spanish artists like Gerardo Rueda.[31]It is astonishing to see the list of artists: I open the catalogue at random and see Bourgeois, but also Albers, Baziotes, Diebenkorn, Gottlieb, Marca-Relli, Motherwell, O’Keeffe, Riopelle, Tanguy, Tanning and Tobey. Clearly, what one in fact perceives is that the Philippines-North America context was extraordinarily fertile for a young artist feeling his way in the world. As an example it is worth adding the exhibition Eight American Artists, held in Manila in 1957, with works from The Seattle Art Museum, the catalogue of which Zóbel carefully preserved.[32]


As we have read, 1955 is a crucial year in which there also occurs Zóbel’s extended meeting with Alfonso Ossorio in his East Hampton house, “The Creek”. The extraordinary figure of the latter artist—collector and curator, whose life and theatrics remind me at times of the excessive characters and milieus of the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald—was that of a true protagonist immersed in the development of Abstract Expressionism. I think, moreover, that Ossorio, a friend of Pollock’s and Dubuffet’s, a collector of art brut, which was on display in that unconscionable house, connected with such central figures of his time as Michel Tapié and Daniel Cordier, linked to Betty Parsons, became an extremely suggestive personal and artistic model for Zóbel. It was he who was responsible for the quoted advice heading this text, which Zóbel seemed to promptly comply with: “Don’t let them hold you back.” That visit was undoubtedly a shock.[33]Zóbel must have left “The Creek” with his head in a whirl.


In Madrid in the summer of that same year he met Gerardo Rueda, which turned into another of those key encounters, for this sensitive and modern artist, with whom he would share a studio for several years during his frequent visits to Madrid between 1955 and 1958, put him in contact with the capital’s art system and also allowed him to acquire information about the Madrid gallery scene, Rueda being a frequent flâneurin Paris at the time.[34]


2 Ca. 1951. Chillida, brow against the night


True victories are only won in the long run and brow against the night.

René Char, “Dans la pluie giboyeuse-Le terme épars” (1969)[35]  

The autumn air blows across the plains of Villaines-sous-Bois and on the side from which Luzarches is seen in the distance there is foggy moorland. Further on, next to the train station that takes passengers to the Gare du Nord in Paris, not far from the Café de Chasseurs, the landscape is impenetrable due to humid woodland, clotted with chestnut and hazelnut trees; when striding through it the fallen leaves break the silence. Villaines, the land of villeins or villains, is some thirty kilometres to the north of the capital, well connected by rail, it’s there that Chillida will arrive at the end of October 1950 and remain until December of the following year. It will be in a rundown cider mill, “Pompeii” as it was called in Villaines due to its ruinous air,[36]with a name that speaks of the past, that Eduardo will create his studio, a world of immobile sculptures of plaster or stone from which his sculptural work is derived.

That space inhabited by arrested and already mineral figures became a place in which he developed as an artist and which, in a sense, Chillida “returned to” when he went back to the mineralizing work of the Lurras, or Earths, something that in the exhibition may be observed in Lurra 16(Earth 16, 1978), Lurra G-326(Earth G-326) and Lurra M-20(Earth M-20, 1955), those mysterious forms of fired clay that Chillida conceives with planes and signs on their exterior, images inscribed in their skin like a circulatory poem.  I think that in their corporeity the Lurrasare twinned with ineffable works by the early Chillida, like the well-known versions of Torsoor Form(1948), being also connected with the retracting air of works from that time like the torso Concepción(Conception, 1950).

“Pompeii,” that studio in the moorland village, was a calm place with a sort of rumour of limits, to utilize a phrase of the sculptor’s, in the sense that, there, Chillida wondered about reality, about what appearances might be, as he was creating a set of forms that involved a permanent calling into question of our complex machinery of seeing. He asks about the visible, reflects upon the arduous nature of constructing the gaze. “Pompeii” resembled a strange universe, dominated by a certain freezing of forms, which appear to be subject to partial movements that divide the bodily fragments up. Such that accommodated in the visual they seem to remain suspended and in suspense, as does the space. Seeing these old photos I ponder that room with its air of devastation, inhabited by constituent elements that have grown in bits, vestiges and reliquaries raised as bodies.

To be sure, that leads me to also evoke his visits to the Musée du Louvre in the fifties and the old museography which lauded the accumulation of remains. Chillida also found there the faces-without-a-face of the Cyclades, with the ultra-hard bodies, so disturbing, of archaic Greek sculpture. Such fragmentation as appeared in the photos of “Pompeii,” confronting that world-of-plaster-and-stone, a representation in the shape of buttocks, busts or headless bodies, interrupted representation via the beaten paths of art in order to “cleanse,” rather than paint or sculpt, to take away rather than add, akin to the artist’s deliberate flight from himself, testing out access to deep knowledge. On the walls of “Pompeii” were also hanging drawings of interlaced forms, in which, I reflect, there is found a certain seed of his abstract sculpture of later years. They can even be related to several upcoming works, like the lovely Relieve(Relief, 1951), one of his first abstract sculptures, almost an aerial, planned version of his well-known early and severe stele of the same year, Ilarik(1951), both of them shown in the Madrid gallery Clan in 1954 and subsequently at the Venice Biennale (1958). Reliefis a sculpture that was done in lead, in his first studio, and it contains an interesting encounter between instrument or tool, like the spades which immemorially turn the soil, a tempting object and a tempting writing of the future Hierros de temblos III(Trembling Irons III, 1957)[37]and the cycle it belongs to, “made of iron,” to follow James Johnson Sweeney.[38]In Reliefthere is the writing of its stones with incrusted lead, and the kinds of blackness which, in positive now, are engulfed in his sculptures. It is also easy to comprehend the lines, the writing, of works like Óxido G8(Oxide G8, 1985).

Those sheets of paper with curved dancing drawn on them, pinned to the wall of the studio in Villaines, appeared to also evoke a homage to Ferrant, the former teacher who had been stranded in the postwar period. The lover of the boulder and of little things: corks, twigs, remnants seemingly found here, there and everywhere, hanging pieces. It was a time when Ferrant was writing, as if addressing the Basque sculptor: “The seed of the sculpture is there, latent in invariable space and time […] looking forward in that way to better times with the same willingness to move those who perceive the spectacle with eyes that, so as not to end up in the pupils, are capable of renovating it.”[39]Villaines was a necessary path in the abstract future of Chillida, an artist who, like so many, had to believe in isolation. He resembles the great artists whose creative maturity is preceded by a period of reflection, they themselves being frequently displaced from their natural settings and going through a time of isolation or lethargy, of doubts and anxiety, of life on the sidelines. What will be important for his formation is the lift-off Paul Auster cites, his personal groundwork. Those drawings pinned to the walls in “Pompeii,” their loops resembling a movement of contraction, are not far from his drawings of hands, arriving with them later on, as Claude Esteban has pointed out, at the cycle entitled Abesti Gogorra. The germination of Villaines in an abstract project seems to be confirmed in the beautiful photograph of Chillida’s studio in Villa Paz, in upper Miracruz in San Sebastián, a few years later: Forma(Form, 1948), the body of a woman twisted to the left has resisted the passage of time. Meanwhile beside it is the poplar wood under construction, a still rougher edge.

“Pompeii” was a studio with silent objects in space, bodies of an ontological bent revealing the task of the artist in constructing and de-representing, embracing absence and presence, immersed in a glacial stillness: it was an absent being addressing basic questions which, being unsettling, remain hidden among the appearance of the real.

I contemplate the photos and see, to one side, on the work bench, Torso de mujer(Torso of a Woman, 1948), from the back; Yacente(1949) and Forma(Form, 1948), a torso turned in on itself that Chillida will select for his official presentation in Paris at the 1949 Salon de Mai. Slow matter, female forms made deeper towards the body, as in a reverse movement that would reveal a return to what was there before, or the step prior to immediate life. I read Octavio Paz on the sculptor and he tells me that, “it is the incarnation of desire in its movement of deployment and withdrawal of form.”[40]In some of those grey photos I see the mythical Torso(1948) or his Brancusi-like Pensadora(1948); some of those sculptures will suffer in the return trip to San Sebastián in 1951.[41]Also Concreción(Concretion, 1950) already applies an abstract language, thus preparing an immediate move towards his steles. Meanwhile, in some other sculptural studies there seem to be questions about gravity and the investigation into the support of the forms that will accompany him forever, even when, in apparent opposition, his forms become levitations: in order to analyse the matter of gravity it is essential that the forms are forceful, Chillida will say. The imagination of the material, quoting, Bachelard.

The enigmas gravitate and his work seems to be a permanent conjecture on the question of form and empty space, on the complexity of that which appears to be simple. Because of this his extraordinary intensity displays something that Zóbel will transmit: namely that art lives on tensions and dies from distractions. It was a corporeal world with the appearance of the simple immersed in mystery. Crystallized bodies, seemingly dispelled, bathed in the stupefying monochrome of the plaster or the mineral, as if addressing the inconsistency of visible reality, the illusion of appearance. They were splendid forms, in the words of Claude Esteban,[42]who will take heed of this twenty years later and will reflect at length on the immense importance of this prehistory of Chillida’s in Villaines. A beauty of little flamboyance and much gravity, I recalled those words of Rilke’s on Rodin.[43]“The future and the past are contemporaneous,” Chillida will write.[44]A world of eccentric sculptures that need analysing and which enable one to recognize, still secret, their subsequent way of doing things, recalling that poet and critic who was so connected with our art: “Chillida interrogates the immediacy of the world […]it is the entire past of statuary which weighs down on the first white stone of the young sculptor.”[45]

In Villaines, Chillida perhaps converses at length with a failed art deco sculptor, Amédée Joseph Antoine Gennarelli, who provides him with the studio and lives opposite. The desolate, icy world we described was conveyed to us by Pablo Palazuelo:

It’s a village consisting of some twenty houses, the church, the diminutive mairiewith a little back garden in which the seven or eight kids who populate the school play. At the railway halt and on the edge of the wood cigarettes can be bought at the “Rendez-vous des Chasseurs,” but there are no shops. Most of the very old houses formed part of a big farm next to a castle that doesn’t exist today. Almost all the trees are fruit trees, mainly apple—it’s a region that produces cider—but dominating them all is a huge chestnut tree that can be seen from far away. It’s just opposite the window of my studio and right now it’s all gold. Fifty metres further on there’s “Pompeii,” an old, half fixed-up cider mill that’s Eduardo’s studio, behind to the south there’s a little garden with an old apple tree and an enclosure of raspberries, now it’s rundown but we plan to tidy it up.[46]

Also, on the importance of that time, which will provide Chillida with an immediate lift-off towards abstraction, the Basque sculptor will write: “When making those first sculptures in plaster […] I noted, intuited, that I was going somewhere, but I didn’t know where […] it was a first radical step towards the unknown; as René Char says,     ‘We must go with our brow against the night’ […] a foreknowledge that guides me in the blackness, in the unknown […] one has a premonition, has foreknowledge in some mysterious sort of way.”[47]That was an “anguishing [year] that turned out to be decisive”[48]for, from there, being present at the arrival of the cosmos of iron that Bachelard would speak of.[49]From the hands to the dream.

Solitude, solitudes, loneliness, May God help us, Pablo Palazuelo proclaims before that moorland, which would turn out to be so necessary to creating art.[50]Objects stranded in space? These images restore a group of sculptures to us which, as Paz was to point out, “are not of great size but in them there already appears that monumentality which characterizes his subsequent works. A monumentality that has not the least relationship with size but with spiritual irradiation: it is not the vastness of proportions which defines them but the energy they contain.”[51]The departure from Villaines is to coincide with two fundamental events occurring in 1951, to which we’ll refer later on, the meetings with Brancusi and with Bachelard. He abandons representation in order to delve the deeper into it, Dupin will say,[52]and will move away from the basic isolation of Villaines in order to undertake another nocturnal journey, the one that will place him in the blacksmith’s forge of the Basque night.

[I view those photos of Chillida’s studio, “Pompeii,” in Villaines once more, the human forms in diverse positions, seemingly devastated by a cataclysm. And that bicycle wheel presiding over the image, which has perturbed me so much? Might the villainous Marcel be back with his questions?][53]


3 The meeting, ca. 1959

In the winter of 1959 a first meeting had taken place between Chillida and Zóbel. The Galería Darro in Madrid was paying homage to the prizewinning artists of biennials and international competitions, Eduardo Chillida had been one of them following different awards in Milan (1954), Chicago (1957) and Venecia (1958). Recently settled among us, Zóbel got ready for the homage with the thematic proposition “Black and White,” presenting a couple of pictures that had emerged from the Saetacycle, Aracili(1959) being one of them. In the SaetasZóbel appears to concur with Chillida as to the heightened script-like stroke of black on the canvas, the two of them orienting their researches towards a certain mark-making that our consciousness attempts to comprehend, the rhythm of its unfolding. Working through cycles of paintings, the Saetasappear to be aimed at stimulating vision. They can be understood as visual chords that tremble between levity and gravity, in movement, be it travelling through the confines of the picture or formerly concentrated in different areas of the same, in the lower part of it, an apparition that emerges from the depths, like Segovia II(1962) or as a threatening space surging from the edge, Aquelarre(Witches’ Sabbath, 1961). Or an offering in the centre, like the beautiful El ramo(1962). This sign world will persist throughout his career.

By that date, around the year 1960, Chillida was already an internationally recognized artist and, of course, among us too, after passing through the Cité Universitaire in Paris and the encounter at Maeght. An abstract sculptor by now, he was recognized as such in a mythical exhibition at the Galerie Denise René, the first salon of abstract sculpture early in 1955,[54]with his hanging iron piece, Desde dentro(From Within, 1953), which was shown alongside sculptures by Arp, Calder and Jacobsen, among others. From Paris another artist, Eusebio Sempere, had transmitted to our press his stupefaction upon encountering the sculptures of the Basque, the sole Spanish representative among such prestigious names.[55]

Of course, Chillida was coming from a prodigious decade for an artist cast into the solitude of the world. A traveller to Paris in the autumn of 1948, his work was encountered in the aforesaid Salon de Mai (1949), and then in relation to the Galerie Maeght in another major collective project in the artistic life of the postwar period, Les Mains éblouies(1950),[56]an exhibition that was a test for the future of some twenty names. A few years later (in 1956) he had his first one-man show there, of twenty-six sculptures.

It was no small achievement, that complex sojourn in Paris, an apprenticeship undertaken with the complicity of Palazuelo, visiting in 1951 the mysterious, recondite workshop of Constantin Brancusi, at 11, Impasse Ronsin, on the edges of Montparnasse, the same year he’d present himself to Gaston Bachelard, who would then write the very beautiful preface to the one-man show at Maeght.[57]On the anvil of poetry Bachelard explained the embattled transition of the hands to the dream, to the kingdom of iron, its essential strength.

Before taking up creative smithing, Eduardo Chillida tried a number of very much simpler destinies. He wanted to be a sculptor: in accordance with the classic apprenticeship, they started him off with a ball of clay. But his hands, he says, immediately rebelled. He wanted to hew down rather than build. Since he first had to learn how to work solids, he began by plying a chisel on blocks of plaster. But plaster allowed him only nominal nuances. He wants his hands to have a subtler struggle. Limestone and granite turn Chillida into an accomplished sculptor. Can such reveries of progressive hardness stop there? Isn’t the chisel the daily defeater of stone? Ironis harder than granite. At the end point of hard reverieiron reigns. What is more, this great wrestler of hard materials discovers that the inner mass of statues maintains a non-attacked resistance. He dreams of a sculpture that would provoke the private aspects of the material. Sculpture in stone, for Chillida, encloses a less active space, a space the human creator has left without employ. Helping us enjoy material space by reanimating its essential forces is something which is beyond the power of stone to do. Stone is mass, never muscle. Eduardo Chillida wants to discover a muscular space, stripped of all fat and heaviness. Iron is nothing but muscle. Iron is direct, guaranteed, essential strength. You can build a living world using iron for every part. Chillida throws away his chisel and mallet and takes up the tongs and the blacksmith’s hammer. And that is how a sculptor has become a blacksmith.[58]

It was an extraordinary decade in terms of recognition: that would be the case a few years later at the X Triennale di Milano(1954), exhibiting immediately thereafter at the Kunsthalle in Bern in Eisenplastik(1955). In 1957 Chillida was awarded a prize by the Graham Foundation in Chicago, while his sculpture was in the States, in two major collective projects: at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Sculptures and Drawings from Seven Sculptors,[59]and at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, participating in The Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture.[60]The  29th Venice Biennale received eighteen of his sculptures in that same year of 1958, with the Grand Prize for Sculpture being awarded to him.

To be sure, in the interim Zóbel had crossed the globe several times: the Philippines, USA and Europe. After renouncing the familiar professional stability of the Philippines, he will settle among us at the end of the fifties, such that after the comings and goings of 1958 and 59 he resides permanently in Madrid from 1960 onwards. He arrives in Spain after the apogee of Informalism, dated to that symbolic era of 1957, with the beautiful adventure of El Paso over and done, and as some fundamental biennials have taken place—I’m thinking of São Paulo in ’57 or the events in Venice in ’58 and ’60, Zóbel joining the collective projects that take place after ’59. Notwithstanding his absent air he is aware of the extraordinary quality of our painting—the art that was being collected, despite official indifference, as he wrote[61]—enabling him to broaden his individual identity as a collector of the period. As well as zealously practising his profession as an extraordinary painter, while he established a single objective: artistic activity. His dedication to art, with extreme intensity, would become his currency over the next two decades.

After that meeting in the Sala Darro, and another convergence of the oeuvres of Chillida and Zóbel in the 1960 O’Hara and Sweeney exhibitions in York—New Spanish Painting and Sculpture andBefore Picasso; After Mirórespectively[62]—the Zóbel collection is being put together such that, with 1962 drawing to a close, it is known that the artist-collector is looking for a physical seat for his museum, something that will happen at the end of 1963. It has always seemed symbolic to me that a few months later, on 13 March 1964, Juana Mordó opens her gallery,[63]placing the oeuvres of our duo of artists in direct proximity, all but paired together: Chillida’s sculpture, Hierros de temblor III(1957) on its base, and above it the painting Luminosa(1963). Mordó had become familiar with Zóbel’s work during her time working with Biosca, showing the paintings of the former for the first time in Spain in 1959.[64]It was in 1964 that, dazzled by the presence of the Basque artist in that Juana Mordó exhibition, Zóbel incorporates his first three-dimensional work by Chillida in his collection, the relief Mármol y plomo(1964), which is in the collection of the Museo Abstracto[65]and will later be published in a beautiful reproduction in 1975.[66]

Barely a couple of months after the encounter in the Galería Juana Mordó, on 24 May 1964, our two artists are in Cuenca, for, invited by Saura, the Chillidas have arrived in the town’s Hanging Houses.[67]Zóbel’s main objective was the acquisition of a major sculpture for the Museo Abstracto and I think that, during the long conversations of that night and others that would occur over the next few days, the genealogies of these artists had to intersect, the two of them born in 1924, the Filipino ancestors of Pili Belzunce[68]and the Basque Torrontegui family on Zóbel’s maternal grandmother’s side. Three days later Zóbel reflects upon the personality of Chillida, who has captivated him: “Obviously intelligent and very well informed […] He spoke on and on. He feels their art (he kept using the adjective ‘noble’; a good indication of the sort of thing he is after himself) is a direct consequence of the quality of the light (if the light has the quality, why has the art it produces dried up for two thousand years?)”. Indeed, he will immediately feel they are very old friends: “I had the feeling, both with Chillida and Guerrero, of comfort; of having known them a long time”.[69]

The months go by; a year of snow, a year of plenty. And rapidly, with winter arriving, on 4 December of that 1964, the agreement between the two is formalized. A fresh visit to the town, now covered in a blanket of snow, is made with the presence of a representative of the Galerie Maeght, then the Chillidas are joined by the gallery director, the irascible Louis Gabriel Clayeux,[70]who, strolling through a museum still under construction, will observe that “what’s felt most of all is the love,”[71]enabling the sale of the sculpture to go through. Three days later, now in Madrid, the affair is rubber-stamped in another meeting of the group in Zóbel’s new house at 12, Calle Fortuny.[72]

As 1965 wears on, the Chillida sculpture Abesti Gogorra IVarrives in Cuenca on 13 September and, not without difficulty due to its size and weight, is introduced into the museum. Zóbel’s annotation is stern, concise, almost trembling with emotion in its sparingness: “Our Chillida arrives. Magnificent.”[73]A few weeks later, on 1 October, there is once again a dinner in Madrid, with long conversations between the two men in the presence of the Lorenzos.[74]They are now genuine friends and Chillida will talk at length about the profession of sculptor: his doubts, the origins of his sculpture, his admirations, the time he spend in Paris. And, more importantly, an interesting exchange of knowledge will come about. Thanks to the Basque artist, Fernando Zóbel discovers the work of the quiescent painter Luis Fernández, while Chillida comes across the phrases of the Chinese writer Lin Yutang,[75]shown to him by the Filipino, which the sculptor receives admiringly; he has something Chinese deep inside him, he will exclaim.  It is a true friendship: the transferring of knowledge and the opening up of learning to new worlds. The friendship is ratified a few months later when Zóbel gives Chillida a Chinese seal with his name:[76]

He came to dinner with Pili plus the Lorenzos. He felt like talking and talked steadily and rather beautifully until two. Antonio and I kept prodding him, mainly. In Paris, the two horrible years between figuration and abstraction where he worked every day and could get nothing done. At one point he decided to return to figuration to recover his footing and found, to his horror, that he no longer knew how. Panic. He walked the Quais for hours—at one point he remembered stopping in front of a shop window full of clothing-dummies and telling himself “at least the man who made those knew what he was doing.” He decided perhaps Paris was pushing him out of shape, and he returned to Hernani, recently married, short of funds, the future a complete fog. The lowest point in his life. He suspected that he had burnt himself out as a sculptor. Those drawings of hands. He didn’t do them while he was sick; what he did when he was sick was a whole series of squiggly India ink abstractions drawn with a Chinese brush. (He went through five operations on his leg. Terrified by the lost dimension of time before and after anaesthesia. Would wake up cursing, bewildered, demanding at the top of his voice that time be restored.) My Abesti Gogora, the first of the series; his first sculpture in wood. It took years to finish, with many pauses and false completions. It used to be much larger that it is now. “The heart remains the same; you have to remove what’s surplus to it.” “The sculptor doesn’t see in the same way as the painter. He looks into the depths. If I were doing a portrait I wouldn’t see any profile. I’d look at the centre of your skull and the shapes would emerge from there—from within.” He dismisses Calder, Henry Moore: “Suspect. I saw a marvellous statue of his, the torso, that is; the head was a mess, so were the legs. A work done in bits.” Likes Giacometti, Lippold. A passion for Medardo Rosso. Told me to check an almost unknown, elderly Spanish painter in Paris named Fernández. Almost unknown. Very honest. I asked him to send me photographs or something. We got to talking about people who write about art. Started translating to them from Lin Yutang´s collection of Chinese excerpts. He was fascinated, “I must have something Chinese in me.” His own favourite is Gaston Bachelard. “Those bearded youngsters look down their noses at him. Yet they use him without acknowledgement when they can understand him; most of the time they don’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about.” Bachelard wrote the introduction to Chillida’s first catalogue. Chillida moved heaven and earth to meet him; once they met there was a meeting of minds almost instantly. Chillida merely wanted permission to quote from Bachelard, but Bachelard (“But we are brothers!”) replied to him poetically and wrote the presentation […] Chillida never makes models. He draws to establish the mood, then lays the drawings aside and attacks his final materials directly. He tried working from a model once and the results were disastrous. […] We agreed that there is something wrong, passé, impossible to use in African masks. The surprise is gone and very little is left. The generation of Picasso used them up.[77]

The day of the inauguration of the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca, Thursday 30 June 1966, Zóbel is satisfied. Amid the tension of the final retouches, he confirms that the marble base for the sculpture has just arrived at the museum,[78]over whose access platform it will preside until today, alongside the “grille” by his Parisian colleague Sempere, Latido(1974), incorporated later on.

Their eventual encounters in exhibitions and galleries or museums will continue, of course, for life, but each of their lives will follow its own destiny. Zóbel’s admiration for Chillida will survive, as demonstrated by the fact that a few years later, on 7 November 1972,  he twice pays a visit to Chillida’s exhibition at the Galería Iolas-Velasco,[79]a major retrospective that includes works from the previous twenty years,[80]opining that he was undoubtedly our most important sculptor “and possibly the best in the world.” Reading the catalogue Zóbel came upon these words, written by Chillida:


Isn’t the decisive step for an artist being disoriented most of the time?

It should not be forgotten that the future and the past are contemporaneous.

I don’t depict something, I ask questions.

One asks when one doesn’t know. There is no honest question when one knows the answer.

The limit is the true protagonist of space, as another limit, the present, is the true protagonist of time.[81]



[1]                Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 1 (1948-1949), p. 20. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[2]                Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 3  (1950-1951), p. 16. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[3]                Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios,vol. 1 (1948-1949), p. 18.

[4]                The Museum began its activities in 1964, two years before its official opening.


[5]                Saura, Antonio: “Viola y Oniro.” In: Cuadernos Guadalimar, no. 31 (1987), p. 6. A series of texts written in 1936 and sent to Antoni García Lamolla.

[6]                Zóbel de Ayala, Fernando. Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la pintura y otras cosas. Colección de citas recogidas por Fernando Zóbel. Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 2002. Originally published by the Galería Juana Mordó, 1974.  Cover by the Blassi brothers. Typography by Joaquín Sáenz and Manuel González. Printed at Gráficas del Sur. Reprinted in 2002 by the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[7]                Pérez Madero, Rafael; Zóbel de Ayala, Fernando. Zóbel: La Serie Blanca. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela, 1978.

[8]                Zóbel de Ayala, Fernando.“Pensando en Gustavo Torner.” In: Torner. Madrid: Ediciones Rayuela, 1978.

[9]                In the CuadernoZóbel will note, apropos of the painting Casa antillana(1950): “It is an imaginary portrait of the author’s house when he was a boy in Manila. The house was totally destroyed during the withdrawal of Japanese troops in 1944.” He also recalled a classmate being killed during the destruction.

[10]              TheCuadernowe are quoting is a series of index cards by means of which it is possible to follow the pictures painted by Fernando Zóbel during his career. They are the primary source of the catalogue raisonnée.

[11]              As in the drawing Así hablaba yo cuando Saturno detuvo los trenes(1963, D-63-27).

[12]              Georgia O’Keeffe, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 14 May-25 August 1946.

[13]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios,vol. 1 (1948-1949), p. 25.

[14]              Ibid., p. 29.

[15]              Ibid., p. 33.

[16]              Reed Champion (Newton, Massachusetts, 1910-Hyannis, Barnstable, Massachusetts, 1997) and her husband James “Jim” F. Pfeufer (Comfort, Texas, 1912-Brewster, Massachusetts, 2001) were friends of Zóbel’s during his stay in the USA. The friendship was addressed in the LeónGallery exhibition The Jim and Reed Pfeufer Collection – A Four Decade Friendship with Fernando Zóbel, Makati, 19 January-6 February 2015.


[17]              Hyman Bloom (Brunoviski, Latvia, 1913-Nashua, NH, Estados Unidos, 2009).

[18]              As the artist points out in 1949. Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 1 (1948-1949), pp. 10-11.

[19]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 3 (1950-1951), p. 63. The note is from 14 April 1951.

[20]              Philip Hofer (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1898-Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984) founded the print and graphic arts department in Harvard College Library, which he also directed. At the end of 1949, while studying at Harvard, Zóbel began liaising with this department, his ambition being to flee the tedium he felt at university, where he was obliged by his family to study economics.

[21]              Houghton Library Collection, Harvard University (1984). The poem was published in Sandburg’s Chicago Poems(1916).

[22]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 2 (1950), p. 14.

[23]              Philippine Art Gallery, First Non-objective Art Exhibition in the Philippines,Manila, 12-25 December 1953. (With the participation of Lee Aguinaldo, Fidel de Castro, José Joya Jr., L. Locsin, H. R. Ocampo, Víctor Oteyza, C. V. Pedroche, Manuel Rodríguez, Nena Saguil, Carl Steel and Fernando Zóbel).


[24]              John W. Weeks (Weeks Footbridge).

[25]              Recent Paintings by Mark Rothko, Gallery of Art Interpretation-The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 18 October-31 December 1954, travelling to the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, under the title Paintings by Mark Rothko, 19 January-13 February 1955.

[26]              Moreover, I’m thinking of early paintings, like No.24(1947) or No. 12and No. 19(1948).

[27]              The III Bienal Hispanoamericana de Arte, Palacio de la Virreina and Museo de Arte Moderno, Barcelona, 24 September 1955-6 January 1956.

[28]              Tharrats, Joan-Josep. “Filipinas.” In:Revista(October 1955).

[29]              This occurs on 24 August 1949: “It has the appearance of being a paintbrush for painting fog […] also a book on painting that shows how one ought to do the rocks, trees, mountains, et cetera.” Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 1(1948-1949). p. 27.

[30]              Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture, Urbana, University of Illinois-Galleries Architecture Building, 27 February-3 April 1955.

[31]              Gerardo Rueda (Madrid, 1926-1996). In June 1955, at the same time as Zóbel indicates the date of the visit to the museum: March of that same year. This is recounted in De la Torre, Alfonso. Gerardo Rueda, sensible y moderno. Una biografía artística.  Madrid: Ediciones del Umbral, 2006, pp. 112-113.

[32]              An exhibition promoted by the United States government, also travelling to Europe, with the following artists: Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, painters. Plus sculptors Rhys Caparn, David Hare, Seymour Lipton and Ezio Martinelli.

[33]              Which is also how Fernando Zóbel de Ayala II sees it in the essential interview in this catalogue.

[34]              On this see De la Torre, Alfonso. Nicholson y Rueda. Frente al mar. Confluencias. Madrid: Galería Leandro Navarro, 2013; and De la Torre, Alfonso. Gerardo Rueda, sensible y moderno. Una biografía artística. Op. cit.

[35]              Char, René.“Le terme épars” and “Dans la pluie giboyeuse.” In: Le Nu perdu (1969). Cf. Œuvres complètes, présentées par Jean Roudaut. Paris: Gallimard, 1983, p. 451.

[36]              Ugalde, Martín de. Hablando con Chillida, escultor vasco. San Sebastián: Editorial Txertoa, 1975, p. 75.

[37]              Oteiza’s poetic reflections on another work from this cycle, Gran temblor Ikaraundi(1957), is beautiful: “The iron Ikaraundiby Chillida—ikara: fear, trembling—provides us with an image of shaking on the outside or on our inside, more than of a thing, of an event, like the trajectory of a lightning bolt or an earth tremor, of a cleft in the earth which dries out, a succession of unforeseen moments, as often happens to a river which overflows or to a feeling that shakes us. It is not a reasoned arrangement in terms of a geometry (in which time happens to us as movement, in a frontal, simultaneous image) but in terms of the opposite style, oblique and fugitive, of life and nature.” Oteiza, Jorge. Quousque Tandem…! Ensayo de interpretación estética del alma vasca.Alzuza: Fundación Museo Oteiza Fundazio Museoa, 2007 [San Sebastián: Auñamendi, 1963].

[38]              In 1966 James Johnson Sweeney curated the Chillida exhibition Made of Ironfor the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, which later travelled to Utica and Saint Louis.

[39]              Ferrant, Ángel. Interview with Ferreira and Jorge Oteiza about the exhibition Cuatro Escultorespara Radio Nacional de España,1951 [transcription of the recording, unpublished]. Courtesy Fondo Ángel Ferrant. C. A. C.–Museo Patio Herreriano, Valladolid.

[40]              Paz, Octavio. Chillida: Entre el hierro y la luz. Paris: Maeght, 1980. p. 9

[41]              Chillida, Ignacio; Cobo, Alberto. Eduardo Chillida; I (1948-1973): catálogo razonado de escultura = eskulturaren katalogo arrazoitua = catalogue raisonné of sculpture. San Sebastián: Nerea, 2014, p. 355.

[42]              Esteban, Claude. Chillida.Paris: Maeght Éditeur, 1971, p. 21.

[43]              Rilke, Rainer María. Rodin. Barcelona: Nortesur, 2009, p. 20.

[44]              Chillida, Eduardo. Chillida [exh. cat.]. Madrid: Galería Iolas-Velasco, 1972.

[45]              Esteban, Claude. Chillida. p. 22.

[46]              Typewritten text by Pablo Palazuelo. Courtesy of the Fundación Pablo Palazuelo. We wish to express our gratitude to them.


[47]              Ugalde, Martín de. Hablando con Chillida, escultor vasco, p. 73.

[48]              Ibid., p. 75: “There were moments of such despair when I no longer felt capable of carrying on.”

[49]              Bachelard, Gaston. “Le cosmos du fer.” In: Derrière le miroir: Chillida, no. 90-91 (October-November 1956).

[50]              Typewritten text by Pablo Palazuelo. Courtesy of the Fundación Pablo Palazuelo.

[51]              Paz, Octavio. Chillida: Entre el hierro y la luz, p. 9.

[52]              DUPIN, Jacques. En torno al vacío. Aproximación a Chillida [exh. cat.]. Madrid: Galería Iolas-Velasco, 1972.

[53]              In Palazuelo’s library we know of the existence of the writings Marcel Duchamp, as well as of a catalogue about his sculptor brother Raymond. Duchamp, Marcel; Sanouillet, Michel (ed.). Marchand du Sel. Écrits de Marcel Duchamp. Paris: Le Terrain Vague, 1958; and Duchamp-Villon, Raymond; Frigerio, Simone. Sculptures de Duchamp-Villon. Paris: Galerie Louis Carré, 1963. Courtesy Gonzalo Sotelo and the Fundación Pablo Palazuelo (15 January 2019).

[54]              I am referring to his participation with Desde dentro(March 1953), 98.4 x 27.9 x 40 cm., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 58.1504. A work on show at the Galerie Denise René, Premier Salon de la Sculpture Abstraite, Paris, 10 December 1954-15 January 1955. (With the participation of Anthoons, Arp, Béothy, Bloc, Calder, Chillida, Descombin, Franchina, Gilioli, Jacobsen, Lardera, Schnabel, Schöffer, Somaïni and Stahly).

[55]              Sempere, Eusebio. “Primer salón de escultura abstracta.”In: Levante(30 January 1955). Sempere concludes categorically: “The iron piece by the Basque Chillida. I’ve known Chillida for years.” The subject is dealt with in De la Torre, Alfonso. Eusebio Sempere: otro caballero de la soledad [Y vuelta al Paris delos cincuenta ]. Canelobre, no. 69, Instituto Alicantino de Cultura Juan Gil Albert, Summer 2018, pp. 106-122.

[56]              Galerie Maeght, Les Mains éblouies,Paris, October 1950. The artists on show werePierre Alechinsky, François Arnal, Huguette Bertrand, Laurent de Brunhoff, Denise Chesnay, Chillida, George Collignon, Corneille, Dany, Pierre Dmitrienko, Jacques Doucet, Bernard Dufour, Alexandre Goetz, Pierre Humbert, Jacques Lanzmann (Colonna), Nejad, Annelies Nelck, Pablo Palazuelo, Bernard Quentin, Serge Rezvani, Jean Signovert, Turnbull and Jack Youngermann.

[57]              Bachelard, Gaston. “Le cosmos du fer.”

[58]              Ibid.

[59]              Sculptures and Drawings from Seven Sculptors,The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NewYork, 12 February-12 April 1958.

[60]              The 1958 Pittsburgh Bicentennial International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture,Carnegie Institute, Department of Fine Arts, Gallery P, Pittsburgh, 5 December1958-8 February 1959.


[61]              “More than ten years ago, enthused by the quality of the abstract work of my colleagues and observing with regret how the finest examples of this kind of art form were leaving the country for abroad, I started collecting paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints.” Zóbel, Fernando. PrimerCatálogo del Museo. Colección de Arte Abstracto Español. Casas Colgadas. Museo. Cuenca. Cuenca: Colección de Arte Abstracto Español, 1966.

[62]              New Spanish Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 20 July-25 September 1960 (travelling thereafter around the United States); andBefore Picasso; After Miró, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 21 June-20 October 1960.

[63]              Galería Juana Mordó, Exposición Inaugural,Madrid, 14 March-6 May 1964.

[64]              Galería Biosca, Fernando Zóbel expone cuadros y dibujos, Madrid, 20 May-3 June 1959.

[65]              “In spite of everything, one of the most impressive private shows that’s been seen in Madrid in the last seven years or so. It was hell to hang”. Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1963-1964). Vol. 7, pp. 25-26. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid. “One begins to understand the form the museum will take. In Madrid I buy a Tàpies and a statuette by Chillida.” Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 6 (1963-1964), p. 32. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[66]              It will become a poster in 2003.

[67]              This is recounted in Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios,vol. 6, (1963-1964), p. 47.

[68]              Pilar Belzunce (Iloílo, Philippines, 1925-San Sebastián, 2015).

[69]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1963-1964). vol. 6, (1963-1964), pp. 39-40.

[70]              Louis Clayeux (1913-2007). The epithet “irascible” has to do with a contretemps he had with Pablo Palazuelo upon turning down his first sculpture: he didn’t want sculptures made by painters. Clayeux was mistaken. “I did a piece in bronze, cast in Madrid in 1954. Then I took it to Paris and showed it to the director of Maeght, but he told me sculptures by painters didn’t interest him. I was pretty offended. Later on Galería Maeght itself did an edition of six in bronze and they sold the lot. It was called Ascendente.” Palazuelo, Pablo; Power, Kevin. Geometría y visión. Granada: Diputación de Granada, 1995, p. 76.

[71]              “Chillida and Pili appear with Clayeux (the boss of Maeght). Chillida, more likeable than ever, tells me we have a sculpture. It’s a big one. The starting point for something bigger. Maeght’s taking no commission, the upshot being that it’s ours for half its normal price; around 350,000 pesetas (which will be cheap—and obviously it is for a Chillida—but it almost does for my resources). From the photo it’s made of wood, compressed with that strange caring for all the details that characterizes Chillida. He’s been cogitating this for almost three years. I show him around the museum. According to Clayeux it is going to be one of the loveliest in the world because what’s felt most of all is the love. ‘And then, most museums are way too big.’” ZÓBEL, Fernando. Diarios (1963-1964), pp. 118-120.

[72]              “Eduardo wanted to be an artist from early on in his life. What was really hard for him was leaving the architecture course he’d embarked on, in order not to hurt his family. But there was no alternative to leaving it halfway through. He works slowly. Ideas come to him while working. He’s been working on the Abesti Gogorra I[sic.] in Cuenca since 1961 and he just finished it a couple of months ago. Once the work is finished he detaches himself from it without any effort; he knows it by memory.” Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1963-1964), pp. 118-120.

[73]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios, vol. 8 (1964-1967), p. 59. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[74]              Antonio Lorenzo (1922-2009), an artist, as was his wife Margarita. He was the author of one of the first monographs on Zóbel. Lorenzo, Antonio. Zóbel. Dibujos/Drawings/Dessins. Madrid: 1963.

[75]              Lin Yutang (1895-1976). In addition, if we follow Zóbel de Alaya, Fernando. Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la pintura y otras cosas. Colección de citas recogidas por Fernando Zóbel: Chan Yen-Yüan (9th century); Chao Mêng-fu (1254-1322); Ch’ên Chi-ju (1558-1639); Han Cho (12th century); Han Fei (3rd century, d. 234 AD); Jao Tzü-jan (12th-13th century); Mi Fei (1051-1107); Mi Yu-jên (12th century); Ni Ssan (1301-1374); Shen Tsung-ch’ien (18th century); Su T’ung-p’o “Su Shih” (1036-1101); Tsung Ping “Shaow” (375-443)

[76]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1967). Vol. 9, p. 54. Courtesy of the Fundación Juan March, Madrid.

[77]              Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1964-1967), pp. 60-61.

[78]              “Yesterday in the museum everything seemed nightmarish. The building full to bursting with people hysterically trashing it. Arrival at the eleventh hour of the marble base for the Chillida (with a year and a half’s delay).” Zóbel, Fernando. Diarios (1964-1967), p. 131.

[79]              20 años de escultura de Chillida,Galería Iolas-Velasco, Madrid, November-December 1972. Held on the gallery’s fifth anniversary.

[80]              For Zóbel it means, he perceives, a change of direction in the gallery world, following a certain fatigue vis-à-vis the approach of the Galería Juana Mordó.

[81]              Chillida, Eduardo. Chillida. Madrid: Galería Iolas-Velasco.