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At Art Fair Philippines, León Gallery presents Fernando Zóbel at his prime

“Fernando Zóbel: The 1970s” presents the celebrated artist alongside his best critic, Rafael Pérez-Madero

In this year’s Art Fair Philippines, León Gallery International presents “Fernando Zóbel: The 1970s,” an exhibition that shines a bright light—and for the first time in Manila—on a side of Fernando Zóbel that is better known and loved in Madrid. 

Curated by Adolfo Cayón, the show features 11 paintings created in the last but also one of the most fertile periods of Zóbel’s life. “You have to remember that Zóbel was in his 50s at the time — and at his prime,” says Cayón. The artworks are thus “more personal, more free,” he maintains.

Fernando Zóbel and Rafael Pérez-Madero at the Artist’s Studio in Madrid, spring 1978. Photography by
Luis Pérez-Mínguez.

“Contrary to commonly held belief,” he underlines, “the 70s were years of heightened artistic exploration for Fernando Zóbel. During this decade of imaginative abundance, Zóbel would uninterruptedly create three of his six series: ‘El Jucar’, ‘La Vista’, and the highly acclaimed ‘Serie Blanca’ which emerged from the former two. Eventually, they would represent, in simplified structure and schematic terms and as preferred by Zóbel himself, his entire pictorial body of work.”

The canvases range from “Estudio Sobre Baschenis (Study about Baschenis),” which takes as its starting point, “Boy with a Basket of Bread” by the Baroque artist Evaristo Baschenis and is embellished with Zóbel’s own detailed notes to himself.

Estudio Sobre Baschenis

Pequeño Homenaje a Stravinsky (A Little Homage to Stravinsky)” is based on a theme by Rembrandt, his etching “Le Paysage a la Tour.” Zóbel began this depiction in Madrid and completed it in his beloved Cuenca. It captures the mood of a stony landscape that seems to travel up and down a musical scale.

“El Triunfo del Cesar (The Triumph of Caesar)” refers to the monumental series by the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna. In the transparent, almost ghostly script, Zóbel playfully includes the writing borne aloft by the bearers of the imperial standard and siege equipment.

El Triunfo del Cesar

There is also “La Vista XXXI,” whose series was based on the view through Zóbel’s window.  “What is it that really interests me?” He once asked himself. “Finding out makes the history a painting.”

The various pieces were delicately created with the light touch of an authentic master; graphite drawings, always an important structural element in Zóbel’s works, are “almost always hidden, acts as the scaffolding for the work, invisible yet essential,” as he himself would write.

All the art featured will be included in the forthcoming Zóbel catalogue raisoneé by Alfonso de la Torre and Rafael Perez-Madero.

Fernando Zóbel receives the 1983 Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts from King Juan Carlos I. Image from
the Fernando Zóbel Archive.

Not by accident, this landmark show is also subtitled “A Homage to Rafael Pérez-Madero,” who was considered Fernando Zóbel’s “right-hand man and advisor, as well as a flawless critic of his work,” said Cayón. He credits Perez-Madero, with the assistance of Georgina and Alejandro Padilla, heirs to Fernando Zóbel’s estate, with the stewardship of Zóbel’s legacy and the “highly merited reputation it enjoys today.”

Equally important is a comprehensive curatorial essay by Juan Manuel Bonet, widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on Spanish art in the 20th century. Bonet’s string of accomplishments includes his directorship at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

This year, Zóbel will be celebrated at no less than the Prado Museum in Madrid, alongside an exhibition on Pablo Picasso and El Greco. Entitled “Fernando Zóbel and the History of Art” the exhibit will run from November 15, 2022 to March 5, 2023, and will feature a dialogue of the author’s sketchbooks “in which, starting from the classic copy, he ends up building his own abstract imaginary.”

“Fernando Zóbel: The 1970s” is open for viewing at León Gallery International and runs till Friday, April 1st.

León Gallery International is located at G/F Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas, Legazpi Village, Makati. Viewing hours are from 9 am to 6 pm; Mondays to Sundays. For inquiries, pls text 0998.517.2010 or email