Artist Bio and Available Art Pieces
Juan Carlos Castagnino
Buenos Aires, November 18, 1908 - Buenos Aires, April 21, 1972
NAME: Juan Carlos Castagnino
PLACE OF ORIGIN:Buenos Aires, Argentina
INFLUENCES: Lino Eneas Spilimbergo, Miguel Carlos Victorica and Gómez Cornet David Siqueiros, Chi Pai-Shi
AWARDS: The Grand Prix of Honor National Exhibition (1961), the Medal of Honor in Painting of the International Brussels Fair (1958) and the Special Prize of Drawing II Biennial of Mexico (1962), among other prizes.
EDUCATION: Architect (Buenos Aires University); He studied four months in the André Lothe’s workshop (Paris). Ernesto de la Cárcova Superior School, and in workshops of Lino Eneas Spilimbergo, Miguel Carlos Victorica and Gómez Cornet.
EXHIBITIONS: He made more than fifty exhibitions. In Rome, he participated in an exhibition with Francis Bacon, Roberto Matta, Antonio Berni, among many other artists. He exhibited in Paris, Washington, New York, Warsaw, Moscow, Leningrad, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico, Havana, among many other cities.
Born in Camet, Juan Carlos Castagnino was the penultimate of seven brothers. His father had a blacksmith shop where he made sulks, cars and fences: this manual work left an indelible mark on his life. He identified himself with the rural and suburban landscape, with the horses, and with the world of work and workers.
Painter, drawer, muralist and illustrator, Castagnino was a fabulous and prolific artist, who went down in history as a painter of the folk. From a young age, a deep humanistic feeling dwelt in his life and in his work.
Castagnino looked at the rural and manufacturing world. He added cuts of newspaper notes to his works. His art paid homage to Goya’s Disasters of War and Caprichos, and to Matthias Grünewald’s crucifixions .He incorporated the social conflicts of his time into his works, such as the violence of the 60s, the Vietnam War (Napalm is the title of a series) and the Cordobazo (a worker-student protest, which occurred on May 29th and 30th 1969, in opposition to the dictatorial regime headed by Juan Carlos Onganía).
“Being free of formulas and dogmas does not mean that the work of art does not reflect an ideology, without a doubt it reflects it for the simple reason that it reflects the man who believes and no authentic man lives without an ideology,” said Castagnino, who was affiliated with the Communist Party since the 1930s.
Castagnino pointed out that there were differences between passive, imitative naturalism, without internal movement or conflict, and realism capable of unveiling the real. He used workers from the tanneries of Liniers as models, resignifying the ideal of the Apollonian body. Despite the fact that in his series, about rural workers, he started out with natural sketches, he did not try to portray a particular subject: in his works the real model represents or embodies a social class. With the certainty that painting should be a testimony of the social phenomenon, he staged rural workers, factory workers and landscapes.
It was far from the telluric or folkloric representation: his figure of the gaucho condensed the local tradition with the iconography of the sacrificed Christ (and sometimes he added to these the image of “Che” Guevara). “We must rescue him as a figure of martyrdom, of struggle, and not only for the field but also for the city, for all the people. The Martín Fierro is a symbol of a current injustice, “said the artist.
He studied at the Ernesto de la Cárcova High School, and in the workshops of Lino Eneas Spilimbergo, Miguel Carlos Victorica and Gómez Cornet. In 1939, in Paris he attended the workshop of Leger and Lothe. In his long and late trip to Europe, he met Pablo Picasso, and other Spanish intellectuals and artists.
The trips and the art exhibitions were a constant of his biography. In Mexico, he visited the murals of Diego Rivera and in Ecuador the artist Osvaldo Guayasamin. In 1952, he attended the Congress of the People for Peace. Two months before Stalin’s death, he was invited to Moscow. He made more than fifty exhibitions. In Rome he participated in an exhibition with Francis Bacon, Roberto Matta, Antonio Berni, among many other artists. He exhibited in Paris, Washington, New York, Warsaw, Moscow, Leningrad, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico, Havana, among many other cities. The Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum acquired his works.
The meeting in Buenos Aires with the Mexican painter David Siqueiros and his revolutionary ideas based on mural art and collective work were key in his productions. In 1944, with Lino Enea Spilimbergo, Antonio Berni and Demetrio Urruchúa, he formed the Taller Arte Mural (TAM). With Colmeiro, Spilimbergo, Urruchúa and Berni, he painted the dome of the Galerías Pacífico. Between the forties and fifties he made more than thirty murals in different places. Among the most famous, figures Plastic Exercise in the house of Natalio Botana (in Don Torcuato), made together with Antonio Berni, Spilimbergo, Enrique Lázaro and David Alfaro Siqueiros, which today is exhibited at the Museum of the Bicentennial in Buenos Aires. With his knowledge of perspective, Castagnino made the composition occupying the semi-cylindrical shape of the room.
His illustrations for the Martín Fierro edited by Eudeba in 1962 were a success: he created the most famous portrait of Martín Fierro and even sold more than 250,000 copies in numerous editions. With these illustrations, he applied the teachings of muralism, which encouraged the expansion of art to reach the general public. With his illustrations he gave a visible face to the gaucho of José Hernández; the posters with the drawings that made up the edition were reproduced everywhere.
Castagnino was a heterodox artist that reinvented himself again and again, free in his way of thinking and painting. “The current painter can not deny either the idea of painting as a pure reflection of reality or the idea of painting as a pure and simple instrument to transcend that reality, and the synthesis is the confrontation between poetry and truth, between passion and reason,” he said.
From his trip to China in 1953 where he met the Eastern masters, he emphasized the synthesis and the expressiveness of the stroke. He was so fascinated by those painters of the gouache and the oriental drawing tradition that he adopted a series of principles for his work, that he learned with maestro Chi Pai-Shi. “Find the vital rhythm. Give essential structure to the line. Characterize the character. Encounter of the composition and the role of space. Enrich the possibilities through the study of the ancients, “said Castagnino
In the painting of easel, Castagnino addressed topics ranging from field scenes of his trips to Santiago del Estero, farmers,, and maternity wards to industrial landscapes.
He painted horses galloping at breakneck speed to escape burning fields, agile or expectant foals at the top of a ravine, the plain and the coast of Buenos Aires; He painted the field and the factory. Master of drawing, he created virtuous foreshortenings of spirited horses. A fact highlighted by his huge passion for equines: from a very young age he made clay molds of horse herds. “The creator must overcome the imbalances of art and life and achieve: awareness (artistic and self-critical), contact with the public, dialogue between art and life” said the artist.
With precise drawing, Castagnino launches us into the bravery of those beautiful, exultant horses. There is joy in his work: sensuality is evident and, at the same time, the expressive power of matter and color. Castagnino has the unique ability to convey the pleasure of painting
Although the drawing structures the composition, with time the color will be the central element. The figuration loses the rigor of the line, the forms dissolve: the brushstroke of brilliant color and fragmentation of the image prevails. Some works are at the limit of abstraction; others are true abstractions (the titles still have a real anchor).
Castagnino brings light on the forgotten town. He painted landscapes, tannery or factory workers, spirited horses in the pampas and even over the sea (they face freedom: the most precious asset after life). He made paintings, inks, murals, collages. Beyond any anecdote on his work, the subject that got most of his attention, is the human condition.
-Yrurtia Ricardo, Juan Carlos Castagnino. Buenos Aires: Ediciones culturales argentinas, 1962.
-Rossi Cristina, Pintores Argentinos. Juan Carlos Castagnino. Argentina: Editorial Aguilar, 2014.
-Févre Fermín, Castagnino. Argentina: Editorial El Ateneo, 2000.
– Taricco Clelia, Castagnino: humanism, poetry and representation, a tour of the work of Juan Carlos Castagnino. Argentina: Editorial F. Viegener, 2008.
-Anchorena Teresa (coord.). 100 masterpieces 100 Argentine painters 1810-1994. (II bienIal Konex, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, September October 1994). Argentina: Editorial: Gaglianone, 1994.
-Nanni Martha (cur.). Castagnino. another look. (Recoleta Cultural Center, Buenos Aires, June 22 to July 22 2001). Argentina: Recoleta Cultural Center, 2001.