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Fernando Fader, brushstrokes of an Argentine life

We remember and celebrate his work: one of the most important and loved by collectors of Argentine art, in which he knew how to portray, the atmosphere of the landscapes of our land.

Art and Literature

Just a few months to live. And that the air in the mountains of Cordoba would do better to his lungs, to spend that short time as well as possible. That was the advice of his doctors, after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was barely a thirty-year-old who had returned a few years ago from Europe, where he had studied the great masters of painting. He was also the youngest of six brothers and on whom the family business fell after his father's death.

It was not his thing: he lost his inherited fortune and finally went to the province of Córdoba to breathe the recommended pure air. He lived twenty years more, painted almost 800 works — in which he portrayed different places of the national landscape — and became one of the most sought after artists by Argentine art collectors. The dying thirty-year-old became the great Fernando Fader.

Horses , by Fernando Fader, 1904. Oil on canvas, 90 x 130 cm) 

The beginning

He was born on 11 April 1882, in the city of Bordeaux, France. From a German father and French mother, at the age of three, they arrived in the province of Mendoza. The Faders were a pioneer family in the country's oil industry, which is said to have created the first pipeline in Argentina, which had 42 kilometers between the city of Cacheuta and the capital of Mendoza. They had several hydroelectric and energy projects. They knew how to grow and carry on many of them. However, the fate of the little Fader was not in engineering or numbers, but in brushes, colors and images.

Fernando, at 20 years, had already made several paintings and drawings, and a first exhibition in Buenos Aires , which was praised by Cupertino del Campo, director of the National Museum of Fine Arts for twenty years and also a painter. This opened certain doors for him on the local artistic stage. But it was not until his recovery period, when in 1915 he met the German gallery owner and dealer, Federico Müller, who offered him a contract to continue his painting career and, above all, to cover his expenses.

It was the time of World War I. No one bought art and had to survive. Thanks to Müller's contact, Fader sold more than 160 pieces of its production at more than considerable prices. Thus, he managed to position him as one of the most outstanding and required painters of the time.

The black pellón , by Fernando Fader. Oil on canvas. 70 x 90 cm 

“I withdraw my work”

In 1914, Fernando performed at the National Hall with one of his works: La mantilla, which was later known as The Manila Shawls. By unanimous decision of the jury, she was selected for the Acquisition Award. This piece, according to historians, was valued at $6000, but that distinction from the National Hall consisted of only $3,000. Fader rejected him and withdrew his work. Some say that he made this decision because of the embargo he had on his property, after the debt acquired by the bankruptcy of the family business. However, others attribute it to the painter's convictions for the genuine value he gave to each of his pieces and, in turn, for the need to professionalize artistic activity.

After Fader's death on February 28, 1935, Müller finally sold Manila's Shawls to the MNBA at $20,000. Cupertino del Campo, then director of the Museum, had also acquired The Food of Pigs: a work that had been awarded in Munich, ten years earlier. The Argentine institution has several works by the painter, in which the entire mastery of an artist never forgotten stands out.

Painting and legacy

“I look not but as a painter; my eyes have no other procedure, as if fatally I had before them a prism that yields everything in tones, values, brushstrokes, expressions. When I look at nature, a stone, a tree trunk, a cow or a pig, I look at it already painted, sifted by my pictorial spirit,” said Fader in an interview for Caras y Caretas magazine.

He did so, demonstrating his skill and talent in his genre and costumbrista paintings, such as Caballos (1904); Fin de invierno (1918); Al solcito (1922); Pocho (Córdoba) (1930). Perhaps, the quick brushstroke and that fast bill to compose the different scenes make Fader's style an impressionist.

The beaches of Guasapampa , by Fernando Fader, 1930. Oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm 

In this regard, Ignacio Gutiérrez Zaldivar, one of the greatest experts in his work, said a few years ago: “ Wrongly, in my opinion, Fader is labeled as an Impressionist painter, when he was a realist concerned about the effects of light on objects. He was able to finish an oil in three hours painting outdoors, but his technique had no improvisation. He had studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and prepared his models for months.” 

He added: “He is the painter of loneliness and silence. He had a very special personality, he thought he was a musician and a frustrated writer , was a man who spoke six languages and had been held in Cordoba to survive. No one wanted to rent him a house because it was believed, in those times, that tuberculosis was contagious. So, he made his own house, from scratch. There are many anecdotes that portray it” , such as the rejection of the National Hall even though, during those years, it was broken.

Last leaves or Caring for the goats , by Fernando Fader, circa 1926. Oil on canvas, 111 x 182 cm) 

In addition to certain galleries and private collections, Fader's house — the Guiñazú Museum in Luján de Cuyo (Córdoba) — has the most pieces of its production. And many others are in the Castagnino Museum in Rosario. However, according to Gutiérrez Zaldivar, the highest quality is in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. That is why, beyond all the things that can be said about Fader's works, it remains, above all, to visit them and look at them, observe and feel them. Perhaps, the only way to be part of a public legacy, everyone and, of course, always extraordinary.


Publication Date: 23/05/2019

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