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Antonio Berni, the artist of all Argentines

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

Art and Literature

In 1905, in the beautiful city of  Rosario , the one who would become one of the greatest painters in Argentine history was born: the already mythical Antonio Berni. Going through expressionism and at some point surrealism, in his maturity he devoted himself fully 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 didn't know that fate had a bright future prepared for him. His master of the workshop taught him the first rudiments of drawing, which he then perfected in his hometown, attending formal courses. At fifteen he had already learned: his first exhibition (basically landscapes and some portrait) managed to attract 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, Córdoba, Granada and Seville, cities that boast 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 still), where many artists lived. In its 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 living in the “light city”, composed among others by Spilimbergo, with whom he was joined by a lifelong friendly 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 major assignment: the Mural Botana. 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 of Plastic Students and Artists and joined the Communist Party. In 1933 he founded the group  Nuevo Realism , aimed at turning into a work of art the small details of everyday life.

In 1936, based in  Buenos Aires , he began to teach drawing at the National School of Fine Arts. He was already a consecrated artist. His orders began to rain: a mural for the Argentine pavilion of the World Fair in  New York , others for the Hebraic Society and the Pacific Gallery. He also dabbled more and more into the portrait: he made a series of his wife and daughter Lili. These portraits are considered the transition to expressionism.

In the 1970s, being one of the largest artists in the country, he turned to stage 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 some time, the prestige and popular affection he earned after a life of unmeasured work and talent.

Publication Date: 02/12/2019

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