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Antonio Berni, the artist of all Argentines

In 1905, in the beautiful city of Rosario, he was born who would become one of the greatest painters in Argentine history: the already mythical Antonio Berni.


In 1905, in the beautiful city of Rosario, he was born who would become one of the greatest painters in Argentine history: the already mythical Antonio Berni. Passing through expressionism and at some point surrealism, in his maturity he devoted himself to realism, demonstrating that in addition to an impressive talent for painting, he was an artist with human and, above all, social ideals.

At the age of ten he started as an apprentice in a polychrome stained glass workshop. I still did not know that fate would I had a bright future ready. His master of the workshop taught him the first rudiments of drawing, discipline he later perfected in his city native, attending formal courses. At fifteen he had already learned: his first exhibition (basically landscapes and some portrait) managed to call the attention of the specialized critic who considered him a “child prodigy”.

At twenty he took the first leap: he won a scholarship to study in Spain. He met Madrid, but also Toledo, Cordoba, Granada and Seville, cities with enviable architecture, which also allowed him to approach the work of authors such as El Greco and Goya.

Months later, already in 1926, he met Paris. In the 20s of the last century, Paris was a kind of Mecca of pictorial art (somehow it still is), where many artists lived. In his streets and bars, Berni met the avant-garde, which showed him what could be done with “new” techniques such as engraving or collage. In addition, he frequented the circle of Argentine artists residing in the “city of light”, composed among others by Spilimbergo, with whom he would join a lifelong friendship relationship. But what moved him most was surrealism. Today, he is considered one of the first Latin Americans to work that style.

Berni returns to our country

In 1930 he returned definitively to Rosario. Together with Spilimbergo he received his first important assignment: the Botana Mural. Perhaps it was muralism that brought him closer to what we might call a “compromised painting.” He also carried out a very intense political activity: he created the Mutual de Estudiantes y Artistas (Mutual de Estudiantes y Artistas) and joined the Communist Party. In 1933 he founded the group Nuevo Realismo, aimed at turning the small details of everyday life into a work of art.

In 1936, installed in Buenos Aires, he began teaching drawing classes at the National School of Fine Arts. He was already a consecrated artist. The commissions began to rain: a mural for the Argentine pavilion of the World Fair in New York, others for the Hebrew Society and the Pacific Galleries. He also ventured more and more into the portrait: he made a series of his wife and daughter Lili. These portraits are considered the transition to expressionism.

Already in the 1970s, being one of the largest artists in the country, he turned to scenographic and decorative works, as well as illustrations for Argentine and foreign media. More than ever, he turned to collage and popular myths. He died on October 13, 1981, already enjoying, for a long time, the prestige and popular affection he gained after a life of work and extraordinary talent.

Publication Date: 02/12/2019

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