Emilio Sanz de Soto

Fuentes Hotel. Zoco Chico, Tangier.

In the multiform and very wide view of XX century Spanish painting, Jean Cassou believes that out of all the artists associated with this period there are some important names missing and some that are not relevant. I agree with him.

I am going to refer to a name that is not well known but whom I believe important to speak about in this view of XX century Spanish painting. To a painter that amazed some of us and whom we discovered like treasure. His name is: Antonio Fuentes.

Everything about him, absolutely everything, was unusual: He was Spanish, extremely Spanish, but he was born, lived and died in Tangiers, when this city was an “International area” and secret refuge for people that today are universally famous.

Antonio Fuentes’ refuge was a house in the Kasbah in the small square of the crazy “aisauas” brotherhood, where, at dusk, Antonio Fuentes would leave his anchorite’s cave to share out coloured chalk between the Moroccan children of the area so that they could draw on the whitewashed walls. Just before dawn Antonio Fuentes would rush to make notes in his notebook of the “masterpieces”. This is the name he gave to the pictures drawn by his smaller painters (the children) in state of grace.

In 1929 he spent his life in Paris in “la Grande Chaumière” and debating with Francisco Bores. He got to know Pablo Picasso through a mutual friend, Rosa Castelucho. He was as always a rebel against impressionism.

When he returned to Tangiers he met Kokotschka and converted impressionism into expressionism– into a very colouristic, very personal expressionism and above all, beyond Spanish expressionism of the very wide view of our XX century painting.

His late and unique “Catedrales” series amazed by its huge similarity with Antonio Gaudí’s drawing on the interior of a Cathedral in Tangiers, designed by this great architect. This cathedral was unfortunately never built. This drawing is known nowadays but was never known by Antonio Fuentes.

Zoco chico, Tangier.

Securely enclosed in the “Kasbah” of Tangiers he always refused to receive visits and to sell works of art. I was one of the privileged people to be allowed in. I can vouch that –although it may seem incredible-names like Barbara Hutton and Tennessee Williams have knocked on his door and been unsuccessful. People that have managed to enter are Martha Chambrun, Princess Ruspoli and Paul Bowles…

We celebrate this 2005 Antonio Fuentes’ centenary. Will this outstanding Spanish painter ever be remembered? I do not have the answer. I do not have the answer for two reasons: Firstly because Américo Castro taught us to believe that “Spain is a country without historic memory” and also because Antonio Fuentes –although it is difficult to believe– insisted on being unknown. One must therefore break the curse made by Antonio Fuentes himself.


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